Rallies: unions announce tough clashes

Unions showed renewed strength at May Day rallies.

Rallies: unions announce tough clashes

Unions showed renewed strength at May Day rallies. They announced tough disputes over wages and workers' rights to employers and politicians alike. "You have to fight for social progress," said Yasmin Fahimi, chairwoman of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB), at the central event on Monday in Cologne. "On its own and out of pure insight, nothing moves in the executive floors for the common good, for a good working environment or against climate change." According to the DGB, 288,000 people took part in the 398 events nationwide - more than last year (203,500), but much less than before the Corona period (2019: 381,500).

Chancellor Olaf Scholz called on companies to train more. "Some companies are desperately looking for skilled workers, but some companies do not train," said the SPD politician in Koblenz. "And therefore here and at this point the appeal: Everyone should pull together again and do everything to ensure that the number of training places in Germany continues to increase."

Scholz, who was greeted with applause, but also boos and whistles, emphasized that unemployment would no longer be a problem "perhaps for more than a decade". On the contrary, one must ensure that companies find enough workers. Scholz pointed out the importance of immigration. "We limit irregular migration," he said. Protect those who need protection. "But at the same time we make sure that those who we need as workers here in Germany also have a chance in a regular way."

These points are important to the unions:

- Endangered workers' rights: The union speakers reacted allergically to demands from parts of the Union for a restriction of the right to strike in particularly important sectors. "You are so systemically relevant that they want to deny you the right to strike. But not so systemically relevant that they want to pay you decent wages," Fahimi called out to her listeners.

IG Metall boss Jörg Hofmann rejected criticism of the consequences for citizens and consumers, for example in the case of airport strikes. The point of strikes is "to exert economic and political pressure, and we exercise this right alone," he said as a speaker in Berlin. "We will not tolerate any restrictions on the right to strike - period. Over. End."

- New fighting power: The unions would come out of the Corona period with a lot of momentum, said Hofmann. Participation in warning strikes is high, people are committed to their goals. "The trade union movement in Germany is getting stronger because it shows itself, because it is public, because it is also able to push through its goals confrontationally."

- Just transformation: The chairman of the chemical and energy union IGBCE, Michael Vassiliadis, called for more commitment and responsibility from employers in the climate-friendly transformation of industry in the middle of the energy crisis. The state still has to massively improve the framework conditions - with investment incentives and an internationally competitive industrial electricity price. "In return, we expect companies to come up with intelligent transformation concepts and guarantees for locations and employment," he said in Bremerhaven. "We will not accept if the industry wants to use the current situation to relocate production."

Employers call for differentiation from populism

Employers called for "a clear demarcation from populism" in labor market and collective bargaining policy. "The struggle of trade unions and employers to find good compromises is a cornerstone of our social market economy," said the President of the Confederation of German Employers' Associations (BDA), Rainer Dulger, in a statement. "Against this background, interventions in the determination of the minimum wage and thus in the work of the independent minimum wage commission as well as new specifications for collective bargaining compliance regulations and legal restrictions are prohibited."

SPD party leader Lars Klingbeil showed understanding for the wage demands of the unions. "I think it's right that people are now taking to the streets for higher wages, that warning strikes are being made for collective agreements," he said at a DGB rally on Monday in Lehrte (Lower Saxony). There will be no restrictions on the right to strike with the SPD, he stressed. "In times of uncertainty we need more participation. In times of change we need strong unions." Verdi boss Frank Werneke defended the wage demands. "The best and ultimately the only way to offset the rising cost of living is strong wage and salary increases," he said in Frankfurt am Main.