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Trade unions: Nationwide construction strike starts in Lower Saxony

Trade unions: Nationwide construction strike starts in Lower Saxony

After the collapse of collective bargaining in the construction industry, the union is calling for a strike from Monday. Lower Saxony is the first to be hit. Private house builders could also be left behind.

There will be a construction strike starting today for the first time in 17 years. In the deadlocked collective bargaining round, the Construction-Agrar-Environment Industrial Union (IG BAU) is launching its announced strike. Lower Saxony is the start. A day later, the industrial action would be expanded to other regions, a spokesman said. However, the strike will not be nationwide, but rather “selective” throughout Germany.

“Now there is a strike, and massively,” said IG-BAU boss Robert Feiger. “We will paralyze the companies and construction sites because the construction companies don’t want it any other way. Now the employers have it in their hands whether the houses and apartments are finished on time and whether the traffic jams due to motorway construction sites become even longer.” The union initially left it open when and where exactly the work stoppages would take place. According to the employers’ association, in addition to road construction and large construction sites, it could also affect private developers and single-family homes.

Construction industry hopes for a quick agreement

“The strikes will lead to construction delays and thus cause economic damage,” said Uwe Nostitz, negotiator for employers and vice president of the Central Association of the German Construction Industry (ZDB). “Especially now, in difficult economic times, especially in housing construction, strike action comes at an inopportune time.” A negotiated solution must now be found quickly.

The Lower Saxony Construction Industry Association said its member companies were prepared for industrial action. “There will certainly be disruptions caused by the strike, but we hope and appeal to the striking employees that they will exercise good judgment,” said a spokeswoman. However, it is difficult to make predictions about possible impairment. “We assume that there will only be a short-term delay on the construction sites due to the strike.”

Arbitration brought no solution

The background is the collective bargaining agreement in the construction industry with 930,000 employees that collapsed at the beginning of May. Lower Saxony was chosen to start the nationwide strike because the employers there, along with some other regions, prevented the arbitrator’s decision from being implemented, according to the union. A central rally is scheduled to take place in Osnabrück today.

After three unsuccessful rounds of negotiations, the arbitrator Rainer Schlegel proposed two-stage wage increases on April 19th. Initially, incomes were to increase by a flat rate of 250 euros in May and eleven months later by another 4.15 percent in the west and 4.95 percent in the east. While IG BAU accepted the compromise proposal, the employers’ associations rejected it at the beginning of May.

IG-BAU boss Feiger said we no longer feel bound by the arbitrator’s decision. There is a strike again for the original demand of 500 euros more per month. “The rejection of the arbitrator’s decision will fall on the construction companies’ feet, because now it can only become more expensive,” warned Feiger.

Rejection divides employers’ camps

There was also criticism of the failure of the arbitration within the employers’ associations. According to the Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein Construction Industry Association, the construction industry associations accepted the arbitrator’s decision in all federal states. He failed because of the construction industry associations. In the collective bargaining round, the construction industry and the construction trade form a collective bargaining community.

Employers now want to voluntarily increase employees’ wages. The Main Association of the German Construction Industry (HDB) and the ZDB suggested increasing five percent in the west and six percent in the east. The proposal is above their offer in collective bargaining.

First nationwide strike since 2002

The last time there was a strike in construction was in 2007, at that time regionally limited to Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony. The last time there was a nationwide strike in construction was in 2002.

The construction industry is one of the largest employers in Germany and, with sales of around 162 billion euros in 2023, according to ZDB, an important pillar for the German economy. The industry had supported the economy for years during the real estate boom, but now it has become a problem child due to the crisis in housing construction.

Source: Stern

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