‘Benefits rebel’ makes deal with city of Hamburg

The city of Hamburg agreed to give a woman who refused to sanction long-term unemployed people while working at a Jobcenter a new post.

'Benefits rebel' makes deal with city of Hamburg
Inge Hannemann at a November hearing in the Hamburg labour court. Photo: DPA

After she was suspended in April 2013 from the Hamburg-Altona Jobcenter, 46-year-old Inge Hannemann became known as the “Hartz IV [unemployment benefit] rebel” for refusing to withdraw the payments from the job seekers she advised.

“I was shoved out because I made failings public,” Hannemann, who is a local councillor for the Left (Linke) Party and standing for election to Hamburg's city council in February, told the city labour court.

But the Hamburger Abendblatt reported on Monday that she has agreed to switch to the Integration Office (Integrationsamt), where she will help disabled people into the job market.

More than 50 of her supporters attended the hearing on Monday, some carrying signs reading “Get Mad!”.

“Nothing would have happened if I had carried out my job according to the rules,” Hannemann continued.

But the city representatives quickly lost patience with her use of the courtroom as a soapbox.

“You're not giving a speech in parliament here,” the lawyer for the city told Hannemann.

Despite the disagreements between the two, the presiding judge was able to get them to agree to the new arrangement under which Hannemann will work at the Integration Office from now on.

But Hannemann has another legal action open against the city for unfair dismissal and won't let her new job stop her from fighting it.

“I've been promoted out of the way because of this,” she said.

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Jobs: German unemployment falls in October

German unemployment ticked down in October as the country bounced back from the initial shock of the pandemic, official data showed Thursday, but a fresh round of shutdowns threaten to halt the momentum.

Jobs: German unemployment falls in October
Archive photo shows a sign outside of the Agentur für Arbeit in Hanover. Photo: DPA

The seasonally adjusted jobless rate slipped to 6.2 percent this month from 6.3 percent in September, according to the BA federal labour agency, which called it a “noticeable improvement”.

“Unemployment and underemployment fell sharply… However, the labour market is still showing clear signs of the first wave of the corona pandemic,” BA chairman Detlef Scheele said.

Pandemic-induced lockdowns in the spring shuttered businesses and factories, but sentiment improved as the economy opened up in the following months.

Government-backed short-time work schemes have softened the blow, saving hundreds of thousands of jobs.

READ ALSO: 'Signs of improvement': Here's the current outlook on jobs in Germany

The number of people in short-time work (Kurzarbeit) fell in October to 2.6 million from a peak in April of 5.95 million, the BA agency said, suggesting an upturn in business confidence.

Worsen the economic outlook

However, the improvement might be shortlived, after Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday announced tough new lockdown measures to curb the second wave of the virus.

READ ALSO: Germany to close bars and restaurants as Merkel announces new round of Covid-19 shutdowns

The restrictions – which include the closure of the gastronomy, leisure and cultural industries in November – will likely worsen the economic outlook for the rest of the year.

The government intends to offer financial support for companies affected by the lockdowns, but that may not be enough to save some of the millions of jobs at risk.

READ ALSO: Working in Germany: How is the pandemic affecting jobs?

The surge in new coronavirus cases “shows that we are still in the middle of the crisis – economically too,” said Fritzi Koehler-Geib, chief economist at German public investment bank KfW.

“As a result, unemployment is also expected to stagnate in the coming months or, if things go badly, increase significantly,” she added.

“The restrictions adopted will hit some sectors of the economy hard, but will protect the economy as a whole and most sectors economically”, said Marcel Fratzscher, president of the DIW research institute.

In concrete terms, the decline in the unemployment rate in October translates into around 35,000 fewer people registered as unemployed month-on-month.

But on a 12-month basis, around 556,000 more people were unemployed compared with the same point in the previous year.

Before the coronavirus struck, the German jobless rate had hovered at a record low of around five percent.