Unions: Unpopular construction strike ends with collective agreement

Unions: Unpopular construction strike ends with collective agreement

After a failed arbitration and two and a half weeks of warning strikes, the collective bargaining partners in the construction industry finally reached an agreement. The end result was a compromise that brought one group to its goal more quickly.

Around 30,000 striking construction workers and internal anger among employers: In the German construction industry, a wage dispute that no one wanted in this form has come to an end. The IG Bauen-Agrar-Umwelt has agreed with the employers on a contract that will be valid for three years retroactively from April 1, 2024. The proposal is to be discussed in the committees by June 14. Until then, the industrial action measures will be suspended, both sides announced jointly.

For the first two years, the agreement exceeds the recommendations of arbitrator Rainer Schlegel. In the third year, the full alignment of eastern wages with western levels, originally only agreed for December 2026, will now come eight months earlier, on April 1, 2026. In addition, the lowest wage group 1 will be reintroduced as the minimum wage and increased disproportionately.

Wage equalization in the East comes faster

In a first step, all monthly salaries will increase by a flat rate of 230 euros, as well as by 1.2 percent in the west and 2.2 percent in the east. In wage group 1, there will also be a 2.2 percent increase in the west, so that the minimum monthly salary for a construction worker will rise to just over 2,500 euros. The second stage provides for 4.2 percent more in the west and 5.0 percent in the east and for group 1 on April 1 next year. One year later, wages in the west will rise by 3.9 percent and those in the east will rise completely to the western level. This step had only been agreed in the previous collective agreement for December 1, 2026.

The head of IG Bauen Agrar Umwelt, Robert Feiger, viewed the agreement as a success of the warning strikes. “This result is higher in volume than the arbitration award, which is what we have always demanded. It was the construction workers who won this result by strike.” He will recommend that the union committees accept it. According to IG BAU, around 30,000 employees took part in the warning strikes over the two and a half weeks. A wide variety of companies were targeted, most recently in Hamburg.

Employers disagree over arbitration award

The employers, divided into two associations, had rejected the arbitration ruling, although a large number of the regional associations actually wanted to agree to it. In the Central Association of the German Construction Industry (ZDB), which is dominated by skilled trades, the quorum of 85 percent approval required for arbitration was only just missed, so that in the end a small group escalated the conflict. In the Main Association of the German Construction Industry (HDB), all associations had agreed to the arbitration ruling.

At IG BAU, some rejoiced over the “industrial accident” in the employer camp, which in their view was bound to lead to a strike and ultimately to a better settlement. The union had long since agreed to the arbitration ruling by the former President of the Federal Social Court, Rainer Schlegel. According to his guidelines, wages were to rise 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. Both of these were now exceeded and garnished with the early wage equalization between East and West.

Statutory discussion in the construction industry

The employers’ negotiator, Uwe Nostitz from the ZDB, was nevertheless relieved that the wage dispute was now ending peacefully. “The sooner our companies and their employees can concentrate on building again, the better for the entire industry,” he said. The arbitration ruling also contained technical errors, for example in the training allowances, which have now been corrected, said ZDB collective bargaining manager Heribert Jöris.

Nevertheless, the discussion has gained momentum in the ZDB as to whether the statutes regarding arbitration are still up to date. In an initial reaction, HDB Vice President Jutta Beeke emphasized the long term of three years. This gives companies planning security when the order situation is tight.

Source: Stern

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