Steelworkers union reaches an agreement in wage dispute

Steelworkers union reaches an agreement in wage dispute
Photo: DPA
Steelworkers union and their employers agreed to a two percent wage increase and a €350 one-time payment for workers in a second round of negotiations in Düsseldorf late Tuesday night, according to a spokesperson for industry labour union IG Metall.

About 85,000 workers in the iron and steel industries in North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony and Bremen will receive the one-off payment, to be applied between April and December 2009. Negotiators also agreed on a pay raise of two percent – effective January 1, 2010. The newest labour contract runs for 17 months until the end of August 2010.

But in an effort to avoid layoffs, the work week was shortened from 35 hours to 28, according to IG Metall. Hourly wages will be raised by €1.75, and trainees will receive 24-month contracts with a minimum work time of 28 hours per week. Older employees will be able to secure part-time working agreements through the end of 2009.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s IG Metall district head Oliver Burkhard spoke of a difficult agreement in difficult times.

“As far as money is concerned, we’ve reached the absolute limit with this agreement,” he said. But Burkhard praised the new hiring practices put into effect. “The 24-month job guarantee gives trainees real prospects,” he said.

Originally, IG Metall had demanded 4.5 percent higher wages over a 12-month period. IG Metall’s bargaining committee will meet Wednesday morning in Gelsenkirchen to discuss the outcome of the latest negotiations.