Workers in Germany’s chemicals sector won 4.5% wage gains over the next 19 months in national talks concluded on 24 May in Schönefeld near Berlin. The 2012-13 negotiations between ICEM affiliate IGBCE and the chemical employers’ association, BAVC, began on 17 April.
Perhaps more significant last week than another high round of industrial wage increases that will provide further growth to Europe’s largest economy, the IGBCE achieved reduction in work time for older workers and more opportunities for younger ones through continuation of a “demographic fund” that will see even higher payments made by employers.
The new pact, with the wage hikes to take effect between 1 July and 1 September, covers 550,000 chemical workers employed at some 1,900 companies. The 14-month 2011-12 social pact expires either at the end of May or June this year, depending on the region.
The tough yet peaceful resolve to chemical sector talks came two days before IG Metall and the employers’ association Gesamtmetall reached 4.3% wage terms over 13 months for 800,000 metal and electronics workers in Baden-Württemberg state. That settlement set a pattern for other metal negotiations across Germany covering another two million workers.
The IGBCE agreement continues a trend in the German chemicals industry that provides financial incentives for older workers to reduce their weekly work hours or opt to take early retirement at age 55, thus opening sustainable careers for young workers.
IGBCE Head of Collective Bargaining Peter Hausmann said this agreement creates an even better “age-friendly work environment.” This is accomplished through the “demographic fund,” created in national talks in 2008.
Between the years 2013 and 2015, employers will pay an additional €200 per annum per worker into the fund, raising – in most cases – the yearly amount to €600 and lifting the fund’s reservoir by €200 million. The fund can be tapped for early retirement at full pension benefits, reduced work week for staff over age 55 at full salary, or more workers eligible for semi-retirement, meaning a combination of reduced working hours with partial payment of pension benefits.
In addition to the wage hikes, apprentices will realise an added €50-a-month increase.
IGBCE President Michael Vassiliadis called the 2012-13 social charter “a good result for all workers in the chemicals industry.” He said the union accomplished a hefty pay increase and in particular achieved more comprehensive work-time savings for older workers, adding that the agreement meets the demographic changes occurring in the industry.