CDU at loggerheads over minimum wage
A spat over whether Germany needs a minimum wage is likely to dominate the ruling Christian Democrats’ party conference on Monday. While many are pushing for a general minimum wage across all sectors, Chancellor Angela Merkel disagrees.
In an interview with the Madsack media group broadcast Saturday, Merkel reiterated her view that different minimum wages should be negotiated, according to region and industry. The motion to be debated at the Leipzig conference, however, foresees one binding minimum level of pay, which would also cover part-time and contract work.
Karl-Josef Laumann, chairman of the Christian Democratic Employees Association, insisted that Germany needs a legally mandated minimum level.
“There are many sectors without any wage agreements. The unions and the employers have not done their job there. Now is the time to take the necessary steps,” he told the Ruhr Nachrichten newspaper. “We need a general minimum wage.”
A senior member of Merkel's own cabinet has voiced his opposition to the Chancellor's stance on the issue. Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen is in favour of the general minimum wage. He told the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger that there was a “huge societal need” for such a measure.
Merkel disagrees. She believes that different sectors should be allowed to engage in their own collective bargaining. “If we take one sector, like the temporary contract sector, out of the collective bargaining mechanism, and make that into a general minimum wage, then we weaken the other social partners. And I don’t want that.”
A survey of CDU members has shown that 87 percent back a minimum wage in all or specific sectors. The poll, published in Saturday’s edition of the Passauer Neue Presse, showed that 61 percent support a comprehensive minimum wage, while 26 percent are in favour of it being implemented according to specific industries.
Opponents of a general legal minimum wage had long argued that it would destroy jobs, by making it unattractive for companies to hire. However, a recent study by the country’s six leading research institutes found that none of the industries that have a minimum wage see any negative impact on employment.
Since the welfare and labour reforms implemented under the government of former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in 2003, the low-income and precarious temporary sector has exploded in Germany.
Currently the minimum wage for temporary work is €7.01 an hour in Eastern Germany and €7.89 in the West. However, there are many workers not covered by wage agreements, and some 1.2 million Germans earn less than €5 an hour.