Public service: Highly indebted mayors want to pay more because of Corona

DThe first scan between the representatives of the employers and the employees in the collective bargaining round in the public service on September 1st apparently did not go as Herne’s Mayor Frank Dudda had imagined. The SPD politician, who was just confirmed in office with more than 60 percent of the votes in the local elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, wanted to clarify something.

“Our employees do their work tirelessly and with great dedication, at unusual times, in other areas of responsibility and combined with many hours of extra work,” wrote Dudda in a letter to the employers’ chief negotiator, Ulrich Mädge. This was followed by a sentence that made people sit up and take notice: the employees deserved “our recognition and support, including in financial terms.”

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That doesn’t happen very often: A Lord Mayor of a city in the Ruhr area with 150,000 inhabitants, which is one of the most heavily indebted municipalities in North Rhine-Westphalia, and an employer with more than 3,000 employees, speaks out in favor of that he does not want to skimp this year – not despite, but because of the Corona crisis.

In his letter of September 2, he can also refer to a similar letter from his colleague Bernd Tischler from Bottrop. At the end of July, Tischler had appealed to Mädge to work towards a collective bargaining agreement that “also documents the public service employees that their work is recognized financially”.

Massive financial problems due to the corona crisis

Lord Mayor Tischler also has the SPD party book; he was also in the local election campaign in North Rhine-Westphalia when he wrote the letter to Mägde, the president of the Association of Local Employers’ Associations (VKA).

Hard-hitting negotiators don’t necessarily go down well. But the two letters make it clear in any case how complicated the collective bargaining negotiations are on the income of the approximately 2.4 million federal and local government employees who are going into the second round this weekend.

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Some of the municipalities have massive financial problems due to the Corona crisis, on the other hand, the union can use emotional images from the spring to advertise its demand for an average of almost five percent more salary.

At that time, people in the public service, in hospitals, care facilities and health authorities also clapped every evening. Small incomes should increase by at least 150 euros. In the east there should also be an adjustment of the weekly working time to 39 hours in the west, currently there are 40 hours. Further relief for employees, for example through additional days off, is also being discussed.

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Ulrich Mädge does not want to be put off by the letters from the two SPD mayors or the reference to the “Corona heroes”. He considers the demands of the workers to be excessive, simply inappropriate. “Appreciation is not always shown through wage increases, but also through a secure job,” he told WELT.

Nobody in the public sector should fear becoming unemployed, unlike in the private sector, where many feared losing their jobs because of the unprecedented crisis.

In addition, it is also part of the truth, according to Mädge, who is also Lord Mayor of the Hanseatic City of Lüneburg and also a member of the SPD, that not all employee groups in the public service were equally heavily burdened during the lockdown.

Warning strikes threaten

“Some of them did not do any work at all, as they were released from work with full pay. Others received 95 percent of their net wages based on our collective agreement on short-time work. We have to take all that into account, ”said Mädge.

And then you have to see that the municipalities can only distribute what they actually have. This is not much due to the enormous drop in business tax among the municipalities and the weeks-long closings of individual municipal institutions and companies.

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The VKA also refers to the “existence-threatening situation” in the airport area, where income is missing and around 80 percent of employees are on short-time work. From the employer’s point of view, losses are also inevitable at the savings banks. After all, these have been in a phase of low interest rates and declining operating results for years. It is therefore imperative that they talk about their salaries of more than 14 months “; these are no longer up to date.

The unions strongly oppose this. “We need skilled workers and we have to take demographic developments into account. There are currently no ideas from employers, ”said the chairman of the dbb civil servants’ association, Ulrich Silberbach.

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End of the “peace obligation”

He announced that he would massively increase the pressure if the employers do not approach each other. Major warning strikes threaten. That is always difficult because it primarily affects the citizens. “But when it comes to that, we will make sure that people recognize who is really responsible,” said Silberbach.

In addition to VKA and dbb, the Ver.di union is involved in the negotiations in Potsdam. Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) is also at the table. Negotiations are initially for 2.3 million employees. From the perspective of the unions, the result should then be transferred to the more than 200,000 civil servants.

The third round of negotiations is scheduled for October 22nd and 23rd. It is now a matter of reaching agreement. Not only between employees and employers, but also among the ranks of the SPD mayors.

“Short-time work is very, very expensive, but mass unemployment would be immensely more expensive”

Germany’s companies should also be able to send employees into short-time work more easily because of the Corona crisis. The cabinet gave the green light for the Employment Protection Act. Labor Minister Heil and Finance Minister Scholz explain the details here.