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Austrian chemical workers unite for fair deal

2 June, 2020Chemical workers have been conducting collective actions at factories throughout Austria after a third round of sector bargaining failed as employers offer a drop in real wages for 45,000 people.

IndustriALL Global Union affiliate PRO-GE leads the negotiation with another Austrian union, GPA-djp, united by the unreasonable position of the chemical employers.

The lead negotiators from PRO-GE, Alfred Artmäuer and Günther Gallistl from GPA-djp jointly stated:

“As the coronavirus forces us to distance ourselves, workers in the chemical industry move closer together.”

The proposal from the chemical sector employers is for the 45,000 workers in Austria to agree a drop in real wages and benefits, with a 1.45 per cent increase that is below inflation.

Union negotiators explain that workers are already paying for the current economic crisis coming out of the pandemic in two ways. Government supported short-time work has been widely used due to the economic downturn, this practice and the state stimulus into the economy are both widely paid for by the taxes of working people. A third way of making workers pay through reduced income is rejected.

As chemical workers are asked to reduce their pay, they see shareholders continue being rewarded through dividends. And the union negotiators remind the employers of the exceptionally good performance of the industry last year.

On 4 June the unions will conduct worker assemblies including strike training, in the cities of Vienna and Linz. Those meetings will decide on next steps to take if employers do not come back with a significantly improved offer.

On 19 May, Austrian social partners in the electronics industry reached a sector agreement including special tax-free “Corona-premium” payments for each worker, and a wage increase of 1.6 per cent. That industry employs over 50,000 workers, also represented by PRO-GE and GPA-djp.

IndustriALL Global Union chemical director Tom Grinter conveyed solidarity:

“It is great to see such energy as our union colleagues mobilize outside their plants throughout Austria, refusing to be ripped off. We back you all the way to a fair deal!”