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Tax dispute freezes Germany’s climate plans

Germany's preparations for next week's UN climate conference in Madrid were dealt a blow on Friday when parts of the government's ambitious plans for climate policy reform were blocked by parliament.

Tax dispute freezes Germany's climate plans
The government wants to increase the cost of air travel as part of climate measures. Photo: DPA

The government's “climate package”, a collection of four bills with policies including increases to the cost of air travel and the introduction of a carbon pricing system, was supposed to come into force at the beginning of next year.

Yet it hit the rocks in the upper house of the German parliament, the Bundesrat, amid fears over financing and criticisms that it did not go far enough.

Representatives from Germany's federal states rejected proposals for a series of tax reforms, including a reduction in VAT on train tickets and temporary tax exemptions for the restoration of buildings.

Amid fears that the federal states would have to make up the lost revenues themselves, the upper house refused to pass the bill, which will now be subject to negotiations between the two chambers.

Other elements of the climate package were passed successfully on Friday.

READ ALSO: Tens of thousands of people in Germany rally against climate change

A surcharge on plane journeys of up to 2500 kilometres will be hiked by 74 percent to €13, while for longer journeys it will be raised to up to €60.

The carbon tax, which would later be incorporated into an EU emissions trading system, was also passed despite it being controversial.

The defeat is a setback for Chancellor Angela Merkel's government ahead of the COP25 conference in Madrid starting Monday, and came on a day when thousands took part in climate protests and strikes in cities across Germany.

It came as hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets in Germany to take a stand against climate change and urge the government to take more action.

READ ALSO: What does Germany's planned climate protection package mean for you?

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CHRISTMAS

Strikes hit Amazon in Germany in the run up to Christmas

Around 2,500 Amazon employees at seven sites across Germany were on strike on Tuesday and unions warned stoppages could continue up to Christmas.

Amazon parcel in factory
A parcel rolls along a conveyor belt at an Amazon packing facility in Gera, Thuringia. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Bodo Schackow

The strikes at so-called “fulfilment” centres, where Amazon prepares packages before delivery, began in two locations on Monday.

The Verdi union is calling on Amazon for an “immediate” salary increase of three percent this year, followed by a further 1.7 percent next year, in line with a collective agreement for the retail sector, to which the e-commerce giant does not adhere.

Amazon could not continue to “refuse wage increases that other companies in the sector pay”, Verdi retail head Orhan Akman said in a statement Monday.

Amazon, which operates 17 centres in Germany, argues it is a logistics company, a sector in which the terms of work are considered to be less burdensome for the employer.

Amazon said it did not expect the strike to have an impact on clients.

However, a Verdi spokesman said the stoppage could cause disruption, particularly in Amazon’s rapid-delivery “Prime” offering.

Strikes were likely to continue “until the end of the year”, the spokesman said, impacting on the busy Christmas shopping period.

READ ALSO: 

Verdi, which first called for strikes at Amazon in May 2013, organised demonstrations outside the fulfilment centres on Tuesday to protest poor working conditions.

Amazon — which has seen its business boom during the coronavirus pandemic as consumers increasingly shopped online — announced in September that it would open eight new centres in Germany, creating 3,000 jobs by 2022.

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