Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/983/26933

From The Socialist newspaper, 21 February 2018

German engineering strike puts shorter week on agenda - but could have won more

photo CEphoto/Uwe Aranas/CC

photo CEphoto/Uwe Aranas/CC   (Click to enlarge)

Glenn Kelly, Socialist Party industrial organiser

With one in four of all full-time workers working over 40 hours a week in Britain, the notion of a proper work-life balance, to be able to spend more time with family, care for children or look after relatives, is but an empty slogan for millions.

At the same time, millions of part-time workers desperately scrabble around week to week to find enough hours to make ends meet.

Increasingly the legal right to ask for flexible working is becoming just that: a right to ask, and the right of the boss to tell you to get lost! In particular, many women are forced out of work after having a child, unable able to afford childcare and unable to get agreement from the employer to reduce their hours.

The truth is that the current UK law on flexible working rights has more holes in it than a sieve, and gives the employers an easy escape route.

That is why the recent deal agreed by the German engineering workers' union IG Metall has attracted widespread international interest.

Coming on the back of workers' action its a glimpse of what could be won - not by pleading with the employers, or asking the EU, but by militant industrial action.

The union did not win all its demands, and all the details of the final deal are not fully clear. But it did win a 7.4% pay rise over two years.

It won the right to a 28-hour working week for up to two years - unfortunately not without loss of pay, but with the right to return to the job full-time - and for reduced hours to be shared out among other workers.

The bigger question of a shorter working week with no loss in pay is even more valid in today's world of rapid technological change.

IG Metall, with over two million members, launched the campaign for the right to a temporary reduced working week - albeit with reduced pay - and for an 8% pay rise, under the slogan of "more time to live, love and laugh."

One union leader said: "In the past it was the employers who demanded flexibility. Now it's the other way round."

The union targeted hundreds of companies, including some of the big car plants, first with warning strikes, and then 24-hour 'lighting strikes' - a new tactic - involving around 930,000 workers.

These saw massive participation and real anger from workers. They wanted both a share of their bosses' huge profits, and a loosening of working hours.

When the employers refused to move, the unions threatened to escalate to an all-out strike. The bosses panicked, fearful of workers' anger, and called for talks. The 24-hour strikes had already cost the bosses 200 million in lost production.

It is clear that more could have been won as German industry is booming. There is also the danger the bosses could use the deal's details to impose and increase working hours.

While some smaller employers are unhappy, Rainer Dulger, head of the bosses' association Gesamtmetall, welcomed the deal, as it enables employers to increase the working week from the existing 35 hours in western Germany to 40 hours.

Furthermore, the implementation of some parts of the deal is conditional on company profitability, while other parts are unclear and need to be clarified.

Bernd Riexinger, co-leader of Die Linke (the Left Party) and a former regional union leader, criticised the deal.

The right-wing IG Metall leaders did make radical-sounding statements that recognised it was the threat of longer strike action that won the deal.

One union leader said: "It was like a tube of toothpaste - you have to apply pressure from the bottom to force something out of the top."

But the majority of union leaders feared calling further strikes.

So unfortunately, the overall results are mixed. The wage rise is to be welcomed, although more could have been won.

However, the deal does not solve the issue of many workers feeling burdened by pressure at work.

It is good working time has been put on the agenda. The question now is how to campaign for fewer hours with no loss in pay.

And, showing this issue has many sides, workers have also questioned why families should have the main responsibility for social care, demanding the state provide support for children, the sick and elderly.

There are many lessons for British workers struggling with too much or not enough work, trying to juggle family life and the need to earn a living - and add to this the threat of automation destroying jobs.

That is why the British unions need to resurrect the old slogans of a shorter working week with no loss of pay, and to share out the work.

And, more importantly, recognise the bosses will never willingly give it over without a determined fight.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 21 February 2018:


Socialist Party news and analysis

Chatsworth ward victory shows we can save our NHS

Tories raid 1bn from NHS facilities budget - unions must act

Blairite mayor faces open election after democratic 'irregularities' - fight for a no-cuts mayor

Facebook sides with state repression - reinstate the Tamil Solidarity page

Like rats from a sinking Ukip


Workplace news and analysis

Usdaw victory - Socialist Party member Amy Murphy wins presidential election

Bosses divided - university pension strikes can win!

After 80 strike days Mears workers achieve victory

Newham academies strike continues with three schools to strike together


What we think

Northern Ireland talks process paralysed


Socialist Students

How can students and young people fight the Tories?

Leicester Uni makes Tory fee tripler David Willetts chancellor - sack Willetts!


International socialist news and analysis

South Africa: Ramaphosa is a safe pair of hands for capitalism

Russia: Ali Feruz, journalist and human rights activist, freed from jail


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Building the campaign against clearances of the working class

Northants council crisis - protesters demand an end to cuts and privatisation

Victory: Pontllanfraith leisure centre saved

Save Salford nurseries!

Labour councillors push through savage cuts in Kirklees budget

May Day, May Day! Celebrate solidarity!

Bradford protests against kids' service cuts

Successful Socialist Party Wales conference sets tone for the year ahead

Tremendous determination on show at West Midlands conference

Lively discussion at East Midlands Socialist Party conference

Nottingham hospital black alert

Cardiff Refugee Rights gig success

Outrageous sentence for TUSC agent in 'misleading electors' court case


Opinion

German engineering strike puts shorter week on agenda - but could have won more

The Socialist inbox


 

Home   |   The Socialist 21 February 2018   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Strike:

triangleGlasgow: Socialist Party Scotland public meeting

triangleHigh Court injunction: solidarity to the CWU - support the posties!

triangleUCU strikes: Union means business in fight against employers

triangleRMT union members at SWR to walk out in December

triangleStrike, Protest, Vote - to Kick the Tories out

Pay:

triangle'McStrikers' demand 15 an hour

trianglePay, jobs, pensions... Vote for a fighting general secretary

triangleUCU votes for pay and pension strikes

triangleMinimum wage debate: what should we be demanding?

Germany:

triangle30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall: How a mass revolutionary movement for genuine socialism was diverted

triangleFar right makes gains in Germany

triangleSwansea Socialist Party1919: When Germany was on the brink of socialism

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

18/11/19

Enfield

Unite housing branch supports stand of Enfield councillor

13/11/19

Postal workers

Postal union determined to resist bosses' attacks

13/11/19

Socialist Party

I'm 90 and still a socialist

13/11/19

UCU

UCU strikes: Union means business in fight against employers

13/11/19

PCS

General secretary election: Enthusiastic support for Marion Lloyd

13/11/19

Socialism

Socialism 2019 - what you thought

13/11/19

Mansfield

We saved Chatsworth Ward - two years on

13/11/19

Fighting Fund

Help socialist ideas spread this election: donate!

13/11/19

Barking

Barking: protest brings pledge to remove dangerous decking

13/11/19

Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance

Trade union conference to force secret police disclosure

13/11/19

Climate change

Socialism 2019 rally: "Socialist change needed to end climate change"

13/11/19

Leicester

Leicester campaigns to save our NHS

13/11/19

Museums

Bradford libraries and museums: Unite members escalate action against cuts

13/11/19

NHS

Frimley NHS Trust strikes: Health workers walkout against privatisation

13/11/19

Workers

'McStrikers' demand 15 an hour

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07954 376 096

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


November 2019

October 2019

September 2019

August 2019

July 2019

June 2019

May 2019

April 2019

March 2019

February 2019

January 2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999