As politicians prepared to start two days of budget talks on Sunday, industry figures called for up to €6 billion to be cut from unemployment support.
This prompted tired fury from Michael Vassiliadis, head of the industrial trade union Mining, Chemicals, Energy (IG-BCE), the third largest union in the country.
“Again, the unemployed supposedly are doing too well, and will get into work fast if the benefits are cut. I do not intend to deal with suggestions of such quality. That is wasted energy which is desperately needed for the solution of real problems. The unions in any case will not allow for those who carry the burden of the economic crisis to be further punished,” he told the Frankfurter Rundschau on Saturday.
One of the options being considered by the government is the imposition of taxes on night, Sunday and holiday shift payments, currently tax-free, which Vassiliadis said would cost a married shift worker earning €3,000 a month before taxes around €4,000 a year.
“I would just warn the coalition – if they go against tax exemptions, they cross a red line. Then there really will be trouble – and without us having to mobilise. That topic will mobilise the people on its own. Shift workers would find such cuts as the most unfair of all. The government would have to be ready for serious protests,” he said.
Various media reports suggest that cuts could be made in Hartz IV unemployment payments or a drastic reduction in the maximum amount of parental support. There could also be tax increases from next year, with the tax on tobacco particularly favoured, but an additional payment demanded from energy companies could also be considered.
Other suggestions under consideration include cutting various aid programmes for farmers such as the milk support programme, as well as the agricultural allowance on diesel.
Baden-Württemberg's state premier Stefan Mappus called for value added tax to be used to raise money in a fair manner – saying that the reduced VAT on a range of products and services costs the state €20 billion a year, which could easily be recouped.