Germany sees massive job cuts across all sectors
The coronavirus pandemic is being mercilessly exploited by German companies to increase their profits at the expense of their workforce. Workers are being blackmailed into accepting severe pay cuts and job losses with the threat of shutting down most, if not the entire company. Trade unions and their works councils fully support companies and apply company policy.
Earlier this year, for example, the management of the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg announced that it would lay off almost half of the 3,900 workers at the yard. Then this summer, the company gave workers the option of accepting 660 job cuts and 200 unpaid overtime hours a year, or losing 1,000 jobs. More than half of the workforce refused to vote on this choice between two evils. The works council then negotiated the dismissal of 350 workers at Meyer Werft and 100 other workers at its subsidiary, EMS Maritime Services. “We have succeeded in downsizing,” works council chairman Nico Bloem said at a company meeting this summer, speaking of an “acceptable compromise”.
It has now emerged that Meyer Werft will receive millions of dollars in funding for coronavirus aid, and shipyard workers are outraged. Main union IG Metall and the company’s works council are trying to hide their own role in maintaining control over the workforce by staging toothless protests, like the one in front of parliament from Lower Saxony to Hanover, the state capital, for two weeks. There are.
Another example of the ruthless stance taken by large corporations is the recent action of Baur Versand, an Otto Group company. In April, mail-order company Otto announced that it had increased its turnover by 30% in 2020. Otto is one of the country’s big winners from the coronavirus. At the same time, Otto’s management announced plans to cut 400 full-time jobs in order to save 50 million euros per year. Part of those cuts now go to Baur Versand, which gives 96 long-time employees at various call centers, who still retain older and better-paid pay scales, the choice to accept the termination of their contracts with little. compensation; otherwise, call centers with a total of 500 employees would be completely closed.
Using these open blackmail methods, tens of thousands of jobs have been cut this year – usually with the support of unions and their works councils. Some of this blackmail extends to contract negotiations undertaken since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. The unions have ensured that workers earn less in real terms than last year. The Verdi civil service union recently agreed to a 14-month wage freeze in the public sector for workers in university clinics and public hospitals, teachers and nursery school staff, i.e. all those who were on the front lines last year!
Yesterday, the Federal Statistical Office announced that all collectively agreed wages, including special payments, had only increased by an average of 1.3% this year. “This would be the smallest increase in collective wage gains since the measures began in 2010,” said statisticians, based on preliminary calculations. With inflation already at 5.2% in November, purchasing power is falling rapidly in Germany, hitting millions of workers in precarious jobs particularly hard.
The WSWS has previously reported massive job cuts in the auto industry, which still continue. For example, the automotive supplier Schaeffler is closing its factory with 330 employees in Luckenwalde, Brandenburg, and at the supplier Musashi, 1,200 jobs are at risk in the factories of Bockenau, Bad Sobernheim and Grolsheim in the district of Bad Kreuznach.
However, job destruction is taking place in all sectors:
-Atos Information Technology GmbH: The French IT service provider is cutting 1,300 jobs out of a total of around 5,000 in its many German branches. An agreement has been reached with the union and works councils as part of the reorganization of the company’s digital and cloud activity.
-Linde plc, an industrial gas producer that merged with Germany’s Linde AG in 2018, plans to cut 270 more jobs in Germany. Already this summer, the group announced the elimination of 500 jobs. The business weekly Wirtschaftswoche is delighted: “Linde has become a profit machine since its merger with Praxair.
-Commerzbank AG: In November, the bank’s board of directors reached an agreement with the general works council to cut thousands of jobs as part of its “Strategy 2024”. By the end of 2024, 10,000 full-time positions should be eliminated worldwide, as is generally the case, through partial or early retirement.
-Deutsche Bank, Postbank: By the end of 2023, 200 more of the 750 Postbank branches are expected to close, a doubling of previously planned branch closings. The remaining 550 branches only have a guarantee of survival until the end of 2024. Deutsche Bank also intends to reduce the number of its branches from 500 to 400 by the end of the year. No information has yet been released on the number of jobs at risk.
-Covestro AG (until 2015 Bayer AG): the plastic manufacturer based in Leverkusen, plans to cut 1,700 jobs worldwide, including 950 in Germany, by the end of 2023. The group had already cut 900 jobs in 2018. Job cuts are expected to make the company, which forecasts adjusted profit of up to 3.1 billion euros this year, “perfect for the future.”
-Otto Group: The product return operation of the Otto Hermes Fulfillment subsidiary in Hamburg-Bramfeld was closed in mid-2021 and work was transferred to two low-wage sites in Poland and the Czech Republic. 840 employees lost their jobs at the Hamburg site, which has existed since the 1960s. “The camaraderie we had is lost forever,” lamented an employee to the press. The collegial climate between workers, coming from Ghana, Vietnam, Venezuela and elsewhere, was exemplary for the integration of workers from very different countries, he continued. The closure of the factory shows that the working class in every country faces a common enemy, the world capitalist system.
-Alstom: The French manufacturer of trains and railway engineering plans to cut 1,300 jobs in its factories in Berlin, Brandenburg and Saxony. Only a year ago, these production sites were taken over by the Canadian company Bombardier and then integrated under the Alstom roof. According to the plan, up to 450 jobs are to be cut at the Hennigsdorf plant, around 100 at the company headquarters in Berlin, 400 in Görlitz and 150 in Bautzen. For years fierce competition in the rail industry has been fought, always at the expense of workers.
– MV shipyards: The three MV shipyards in Rostock, Stralsund and Wismar with a total of 2,800 jobs are at risk. In the middle of this year, hundreds of workers were transferred to a so-called transfer company: 300 in Stralsund, 220 in Rostock and around 100 in Wismar. Now all the sites are up for grabs.
-Blohm + Voss: According to IG Metall, 133 jobs will be cut at Hamburg’s traditional shipyard Blohm + Voss.
-Vallourec Deutschland GmbH: The French steel pipe company Vallourec plans to sell its pipe factories in Düsseldorf and Mülheim an der Ruhr. If no suitable buyer can be found, both factories will be closed, according to management. About 2,500 workers are affected. A year ago, the company already closed a tube factory in Düsseldorf-Reisholz with around 1,400 employees. As usual, IG Metall accompanied the closure of the plant with toothless protests and protests.
-Haworth, Inc .: 170 jobs to be cut at office furniture maker in Bad Münder.
This list could be continued. What all of these cases have in common is that unions and their works councils are implementing the cuts and closures. Working in close collaboration with company management, they subordinate working conditions and jobs to profit maximization in order to strengthen the position of companies in the global market.
Workers’ protests are nipped in the bud by dividing workers against each other, either factory against factory or along national lines. Corporate attacks on employment are invariably applied when unions accept so-called “socially acceptable” job cuts: partial retirement, early retirement, part-time work or switching to transfer companies, which only lead to unemployment. or precarious employment. The social misery of workers and their families is increasing week by week.
The time has come for workers to take the initiative and organize themselves, independently of union officials, into action committees whose leaders are democratically and directly elected by the workers. Transnational companies can only be fought by networking these action committees at the international level. We call on all workers to join the Safe Workplaces Action Committee Network and fight for a socialist program to organize the economy for the benefit of the working class.