Unions protect idlers from dismissal

IG Metall Baden-Wuerttemberg

Berthold Huber

Conference Agenda 2010 of the IG Metall administration office Heilbronn-Neckarsulm

Dear Colleagues,
As you are gathered here, you are either one of the frogs, the caste of the untouchables, the concrete heads or the blockers of the nation.
These are all the nice titles that we have received from leading politicians, employers' associations and the media in recent months.

For the fun party FDP and its chairman Westerwelle, the unions are a caste of the untouchables, for the deputy CDU parliamentary group leader Merz we are frogs that you don't have to ask if you want to drain the swamp. The General Secretary of the Baden-Württemberg CDU Kauder speaks in an Ash Wednesday event to the applause of the district administrators and mayors present - of the union sacks.

For large parts of the media we are the blockers and concrete heads of the nation and BDI and BDA proclaim that the power of the trade unions must finally be curtailed.
For many, Margret Thatcher is the role model, who would have shown the British trade unions, to put it in good Swabian, where the Bartel gets the Moscht.

Never before in post-war history have trade unionists been exposed to such a hateful campaign, and surveys confirm that it also has an impact on the population.

For me, colleagues, these statements are a sneaky defamation of the good work of our works councils, our shop stewards, and our youth and severely disabled representatives.

We could easily enumerate at least 100 to 200 companies in the metal and electrical industry in Baden-Württemberg that would no longer exist today without the involvement of works councils, workers and trade unions. And this also applies to other industries.

Therefore a clear message to Messrs. Westerwelle, Merz and Kauder and co: the arc - gentlemen - is overstretched. And addressed to us, it's time we move and show. We do not allow ourselves to be turned into the whipping boys and idiots of the nation.
It is clear that there is one central question that is moving people these days: the future of the welfare state in the context of the cuts that have been announced.

The crisis in our social system has not been brought about. It has its objective reasons: the lack of economic growth and the associated high mass unemployment on the one hand - the foreseeable exacerbation of the problems due to demographic development on the other.

Growth rates below 2% lead to more unemployment. The announced investment program is the right step, but it is not a sufficient one.

One thing is clear: without qualified training for young people, growth cannot be secured in the long term. In view of the dramatic decline in the number of apprenticeships available, Gerhard Schröder would do well to call for specific measures. But: employers have already made promises several times. They did not keep it. The fact remains: every young person has a right to an apprenticeship position! This is important for their own future and for our country. It is high time the government took action and made employers accountable!

However, these measures will not be enough to provide the necessary impetus for more economic growth. Especially when the state's ability to act ends in a kind of self-castration through a nonsensical program to lower the tax rate. Germany has one of the lowest tax rates in Europe. In corporate taxes, there was a slump in tax revenue. 24 billion & # 8364; companies have been paying less corporate tax since 2001. Large corporations with good profits have almost entirely said goodbye to tax payments for years.

This is a dead end policy. Agenda 2010 does not provide convincing answers to the economic downturn and mass unemployment.

In addition, there is the demographic development:
Today there is one pensioner for every four working-age citizens.
In 2030 this will already apply to 2 fellow citizens.

If the employment rate in Germany does not increase, this means that there will be one pensioner for every employee in 2050.

It is clear to everyone: Politicians have to provide answers!
What the federal government is presenting today does not reveal any lines that meet these challenges. I don't even want to talk about the opposition.

People know about the need for reform. But they are equally unsettled. Every little form is talked up as a panacea. Instead of working on responsible policy drafts, there is blind actionism.

For me, Agenda 2010 is reduced from "red-green" to the fact that once again the social system should serve as a marshalling yard for the renovation of the various households.

There is another way:
In the midst of the great depression of the 1920s, Theodor Roosevelt formulated a remarkable insight into the chances of political reforms in the crisis: "We need not be afraid of anything but fear itself" - people's fear of losing their jobs Loss of social security and future prospects.

And people are sensitive to whether a measure distributes the burdens and risks fairly, or whether one group of the population is favored or disadvantaged.

Some of the Agenda 2010 proposals are fuel in the fire. An example: the planned disenfranchisement and social dismantling of older workers. What is being proposed here is unjust and calls for our firm resistance.

This begins with the relaxation of the rules on social selection in the event of dismissals.
Given the fact
- that older workers in particular have the worst possible placement opportunities on the labor market,
- that the proportion of long-term unemployed in this group is significantly higher,
the question arises:
What understandable reasons should there be for making this group worse off in terms of termination law?
And why does the period of receipt of unemployment benefit have to be reduced to a maximum of 18 months for this group in particular?

I say: It is not a fair sharing of the burden if the employees who have been paying for the longest time in unemployment insurance and who are most at risk of permanent unemployment are now to be cut most clearly in their insurance claims! That is wrong and unjust!

This is especially true if, as the government wanted, after the period of receipt of unemployment benefit has expired, a descent to the level of social assistance is to take place. I ask: where is the welfare state principle? I can't see it anymore.
Obviously it should be sacrificed to the ideology that hardship drives work. As if our unemployed colleagues weren't looking for work.
At the end of March, 345,334 people were unemployed in Baden-Württemberg. 90,369 of them were 50 years or older. At the same time there were only 59,802 vacancies.
Given these numbers, the ideology that hardship drives work is sheer cynicism. We cannot and we will not accept that as a union. Everyone who has a social conscience is challenged to resist.

The unions have to do two things. The criticism of such measures. But you also have to draw lines of reform yourself that we are missing in politics today.

Take, for example, the labor market reforms. Of course, job security and social security in the event of job loss must be balanced.

A society that wants and needs to promote mobility and flexibility, that demands qualifications, that wants to improve the employment of parents, such a society has to think about how it can bring job security and social security during periods without gainful employment into a new balance.

In Scandinavia, for example, the employment of women and older employees is significantly higher than in our country. The greater flexibility in the labor market was made possible there by better social security in times of unemployment. At the same time, the protection against dismissal was relaxed significantly.

What the federal government is now planning, however, is only the dismantling of social rights: both dismissals are to be made easier and the social security of those who have been dismissed is to be dismantled.

The planned new regulation of sick pay is also short of breath and action-oriented. Sick pay has been an insurance benefit to this day that protects against income risks for a certain period of time, especially in the case of particularly difficult illnesses and chronic illnesses. This risk protection is now to be removed from the statutory health insurance and privatized.

Even the economic research institutes pointed out in their spring report that there are many good reasons for privatization where the healthcare market is forcing greater cost efficiency. However, this is in no way the case with sick pay.

So smoke candles are being thrown here again: It is not about reducing costs in the health care system, but simply about redistribution at the expense of employees.

Not the price cartel of the pharmaceutical industry, not the monopoly of the association of statutory health insurance physicians, not the necessary structural adjustment in the case of overcapacities and inefficiency in the health care system, but rather where the insured person can seem to be the easiest to reach into their pockets. At the same time, insurance benefits are reduced where the health risks are greatest. I call this antisocial. This has nothing to do with a necessary reform of the health system. This is a misuse of the word "reform".

I believe, ladies and gentlemen, that the trade unions must stand up for greater efficiency in the health system. Even if some individual interests of members are negatively affected by it. But we demand that you take this nonsense of outsourcing sick pay out of Agenda 2010.

A final example of how one can discredit the "courage to change" oneself are the statements of the Rürup Commission and their comments by the responsible minister, Ulla Schmidt.
In view of the inevitable demographic development that lies ahead of us, I believe that the forced development of mandatory additional personal old-age insurance is urgently required.

But: what Prof. Rürup says about retirement at 67 borders on popular stupidity. It is clear that with the increase in the retirement age, the real retirement age, which is now around 61, will be little influenced. If that is correct, then Rürup is only concerned with achieving higher discounts on earlier retirement. If you want reforms, you have to tell people the truth and not fool them.

If the minister now counters critics that we must finally say goodbye to the "youth craze" in our society, then I can only say to Mrs. Schmidt that if I am not mistaken, they are also responsible for disability pensions.
It is a fact that the working and performance conditions in many companies today are not such that one can hold out until retirement age without serious damage to health. I know many companies in the metal and electrical industry in Stuttgart. In none of these companies is work a walk in the park. Shift work, heat work, pressure to perform - that is the reality that demands high health prices. Another fact is that there are fewer and fewer workplaces in companies where employees with limited assignments can be employed. It is also a fact that older employees often have no chance of another job because their qualifications have lost value over their years of work.

As trade unions, we must endeavor to ensure that the working and performance conditions, but also the qualifications of the employees, enable a working life up to 65. Nevertheless, we will still need earlier exit options in the future, and both of these require the active participation of the federal government and employers.

The European Union has set itself the goal of increasing the employment rate of older workers to 50% by 2010. Germany is one of the furthest away from this. Germany could learn a lot from the experience of how other countries react in a bundle of measures here.

It would be high time for a social democratic government to focus on improving occupational health and safety, on better qualifications and on age-appropriate work organization than to propose the thesis that older people could work longer if they only wanted to.

Our older colleagues are not idlers and slackers. Anyone who claims this, whether openly or in hiding, I call a cynic.
I would have expected a Red-Green government to tackle increasing the employment rate of the elderly as a necessary reform project at its roots. Its roots are the deterioration in health and qualifications during the work phase. To reduce this subject to pension cuts is factually inadequate. Politically, that is also unwise. Anyone who wants reforms needs popular approval.

Dear Colleagues,
To campaign against a government of whatever color is one thing. Submitting your own concepts is another. The unions have to do both. For example, we need alternatives to finance the welfare state. Why?

When Bismarck's social legislation was created 130 years ago, the average life expectancy of the insured was 2 to 3 years below the statutory retirement age. Today it is 13 years higher. When the Federal Social Welfare Act was passed in 1962, it was assumed that this law was only necessary for individual cases in very special emergencies. Today 2.7 million people receive social assistance. When the Employment Promotion Act was created in 1969, some seriously thought about abolishing unemployment benefits as a relic from a past time, since full employment was sustainably possible. Today 1.9 million people receive unemployment benefits, 1.7 million unemployment benefits.

These facts make it clear that the factual foundations of our social security systems have changed dramatically and they will continue to change. That is why it does not help the trade unions to only want to preserve what is already there and to resist cuts in benefits. No, that is not enough. We have to resist. At the same time, however, we have to formulate our own contributions to solving these problems.
In the long run we cannot use the factor "work" alone to finance the social security system. We generally have no problem with the level of unit labor costs. But it is also a fact that in some sectors the wage is the decisive factor in whether an activity is relocated or a service offered is used.

Today, from the first mark onwards, wages are burdened with social security contributions.In this way, it is precisely the low incomes that are diminished in their power to consume.

Why shouldn't all incomes, including those from property, participate equally in the welfare state?
Why shouldn't there also be a progression in social insurance, staggered according to income?

Both measures aim to better integrate social security contributions and tax revenues.

These are certainly long-term decisions. But we have to actively pursue them as unions. The only defense of parity financing would otherwise lead to a reduction and further privatization of insurance benefits.

Dear Colleagues,
We stand against the politics of no prospect of social cuts and for social justice and work. Today and in the future.

But we also have to make it clear: We are not the "only brakes"! We have to make it clear: they have no "courage to make changes" that instead of a reform policy from a single source, only deliver actionist patchwork. Piecework that also points in the wrong direction.

It is clear where friend and foe are located.

Whoever describes us as a "plague for the country", like Mr. Westerwelle, will be a plague to him. Today and in the future.

Anyone who calls us frogs, with whom one shouldn't talk when, as Mr. Merz says, "the swamp" of the welfare state is to be drained, we will croak night into day.

Nor will we succumb to the temptation to look for allies where we go from bad to worse.

We act together for social justice and necessary reforms in our society.

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