The negotiating team of the PRO-GE and GPA unions are demanding not only substantial wage and salary increases, but also a significant increase in apprentice wages, the introduction of a surcharge for Saturday work, an increase in the overtime surcharge for the tenth working hour and easier access to the sixth week of vacation. The demands were handed over to the employers on Monday.
“Now it’s also about strengthening people’s purchasing power. The unions will not allow real wages to fall. 10.6 percent more is therefore a correct requirement,” says GPA negotiator Karl Dürtscher. “There’s no need for a wand here,” he said. The unions did the math: Production increased by five billion euros in 2021 compared to the pre-CoV year 2019. The first half of 2022 went even better than in the same period of the previous year.
The starting point is the past annual inflation rate of 6.3 percent. The trade unions are citing a 4.3 percent increase in GDP this year. In the Ö1 morning journal, chief negotiator Rainer Wimmer from PRO-GE said that real wage growth was demanded because “everything else is unthinkable for us”. In the previous year, the metal industry closed with a wage and salary increase of three to 3.55 percent.
Industry: “Unreasonable and exaggerated”
Christian Knill from the industry division of the Chamber of Commerce (WKO) let it be known in advance that employers could not shoulder everything that inflation entails. The state has already relieved the burden, which must flow into the negotiations – but the employee representatives reject that. After the claims had been handed over, Knill declared them “unreasonable and excessive”.
Not all 1,200 companies in the industry are doing well, not only are energy prices high, but material prices are still high. A third make no profits at all, according to Knill. They reject a reduction in working hours, but Knill was open to one-off payments. Not using this tax-exempt option would be “nonsense,” said the chairman of the Association of the Metal Technology Industry (FMTI). Before the claim was handed over, Wimmer had again described one-off payments as unsustainable and as insufficient compensation for the current inflation rate.
In addition to the metalworking industry with its around 130,000 employees, the collective agreements of the other branches of the metal industry are also being negotiated, they affect around 70,000 employees. In the past, the degrees here were as high as at the FMTI. The situation is similar with wages and salaries in the metal industry, which will be negotiated in a few weeks.
Kocher wants “balance”
ÖVP Labor Minister Martin Kocher wished for a balance in the negotiations on Sunday in the ORF “Press Hour”. Purchasing power stability must be maintained and at the same time the general economic situation must be taken into account, and inflation must not be fueled any further. The government sent a number of signals to the negotiators with the anti-inflation package. Kocher also appealed to solidarity, “but also, of course, to put populism aside”.
Kocher on wage negotiations
ÖVP Minister of Labor Martin Kocher would like the wage negotiations to be balanced, as he said in the “Press Hour”.
He expects a higher degree than in previous years, when the negotiations were quick and conciliatory due to the pandemic. But the question is “of course also: How high can that go? Due to the difficult situation, the companies are of course also affected by the massive price increases, especially for energy, for energy suppliers. This means that if prices and wages go up too much, difficulties will arise and companies will not be able to survive on the market,” says Kocher.
Van der Bellen supported demos
In the run-up to the transfer of claims, the ÖGB had called for demonstrations nationwide on Saturday. Not only higher wages were demanded, but also measures against inflation and an excess profit tax. According to ÖGB information, 32,000 people across Austria took part in the demo, according to unofficial police figures it was 12,000.
The ÖGB received support from Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen for the large-scale demonstrations: he supported the concerns of the rallies, he wrote on Twitter. The rampant inflation and its consequences put many employees under great pressure. “Just as we as a community intervene to regulate energy prices, we must also create social security against inflation.” The FPÖ accused Van der Bellen of hypocrisy in a broadcast.
Collective bargaining negotiations in the private health and social sector with around 130,000 employees also start on Monday. The last negotiations took place in 2020, when the general 37-hour week was introduced in the industry.