“Violation of collective bargaining autonomy”: employers consider lawsuit against minimum wage increase
Thursday December 30th 2021
“Violation of collective bargaining autonomy”
Employers are considering legal action against minimum wage increase
The minimum wage increase announced by the traffic light government offends many employers. The project torpedoes already concluded collective agreements. The dispute could even land in court.
Germany’s employers are considering taking legal action against the law announced by the traffic light government for a minimum wage of 12 euros. “Our problem is the way to get there,” said employer president Rainer Dulger in Berlin. “As the German government intends to do at the moment, I consider it a gross violation of collective bargaining autonomy,” said Dulger.
Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil wants to present a law at the beginning of the year to raise the lower wage limit to 12 euros this year. On January 1, the minimum wage will rise from 9.60 to 9.82 euros and on July 1 to 10.45 euros. Dulger criticized the proposed law as a breach of the government’s promise that “the minimum wage commission is the guardian of the minimum wage and not politics,” he said.
“Whether, when and how we have the Federal Government’s actions legally checked in a qualified manner depends entirely on when this political minimum wage is to be implemented,” said Dulger. “The autonomy of collective bargaining is constitutionally protected.” On the day Olaf Scholz was elected as the new Federal Chancellor, Heil had already announced that a law would be swiftly submitted to raise the minimum wage. This should come this year, Heil had said in an interview. A minimum wage of 12 euros was a key campaign promise made by Scholz. According to Scholz, up to ten million workers will benefit from it.
Since the introduction of the lower wage limit in 2015 at a level of EUR 8.50, the minimum wage commission, together with representatives of employers and trade unions, had specified the steps to increase. In the coalition agreement, the SPD, the Greens and the FDP had promised that the independent minimum wage commission would decide again on possible increases after the one-time adjustment to 12 euros. Dulger said: “In the short term, it’s not about the 12 euros, it’s about how the new federal government deals with the minimum wage commission and with collective bargaining.” He warned: “The minimum wage as a plaything in politics is the last thing our social partnership can use.” It is highly questionable how useful the minimum wage commission is if, in every future legislature, politicians say: “We’ll change the minimum wage as we want, and then we’ll reinstate the commission.”
“Find a common solution”
Crafts President Hans Peter Wollseifer made a similar statement. “If the minimum wage of 12 euros comes already in 2022, that would make around 200 collective agreements that were negotiated between the social partners – that is, employers and unions – obsolete,” said Wollseifer. The only conceivable way out of this dilemma is to set a target of 12 euros – “but not for the year 2022”, as Wollseifer said. “That you define the term of the 12 euros, but in such a way that the minimum wage commission can support it.” The increase already decided in the middle of the year is already in sight of the 12 euros, said Wollseifer. “They would probably be reached by the end of 2023 anyway.”
The DGB chairman Reiner Hoffmann sees opportunities for a consensus on the way to the 12 euros. “We have a common interest in not questioning the functionality of the minimum wage commission,” said Hoffmann. “It should be possible to find a joint solution as to how the 12 euros can now be reached quickly.” Once this level has been reached, the previous mechanisms should continue to apply, said the chairman of the German Federation of Trade Unions. “It is clear to the unions: The minimum wage is always only the second-best solution – after strong collective bargaining with good collective wages.” Wollseifer warned: “If the minimum wage becomes the plaything of politics, then the members of the minimum wage commission should really give thought to whether it still makes sense to continue working in this commission.”
In an interview with the “Rheinische Post” shortly before Christmas, Heil had assured that the future increases after the increase to 12 euros would “then follow the recommendations of the independent minimum wage commission”.