After a final ten-hour marathon of negotiations, employers and the German metalworkers’ union reached a wage agreement paving the way for a four-day week. In addition to a “corona bonus” of 500 euros, the unions obtained a salary increase of 2.3%. It can be paid either in the form of a single payment in February 2022, or to compensate for a reduction in working time, “like the introduction of the four-day week”, announced the union IG Metall.

This “pilot” agreement, concluded after months of negotiations and a series of warning strikes, first applies to some 700,000 employees in the sector in the region of North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous in Germany. .

Part of this cradle of the “Ruhr”, the collective agreement is nevertheless intended to serve as a model for wage negotiations in other German regions. Declined by company-by-company agreements, it extends to some 3.8 million employees in the sector, from the steel industry to the automobile industry.

“Fairness and reason” according to the employers

This result, described as “exemplary” by the regional president of IG Metall Knut Giesler, will make it possible to finance a “reduction in working time in the event of a job problem without significant loss of salary”, he discounted. The regional representative of the metalworking industry, Arndt Günter Kirchhoff, also sees it as a result “marked by fairness and reason in an exceptionally difficult economic situation”.

In the process of losing momentum, with a 2% drop in membership, IG Metall is thus securing a partial victory. He does not get the 4% salary increase claimed at the start of negotiations. On the other hand, it lays the foundations for securing employment in sectors undergoing reconversion, between the downturn in the steel industry and the switch to all electric in the automotive sector.

The possible change to a four-day week is a reflection of a “trend”, stressed Knut Giesler. According to a survey by the Munich Economic Institute, Ifo, published on Wednesday, 50% of Germans and 41% of Germans work more than they would like, i.e. 41 hours for some and 32 hours for others on average .

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