You don’t talk about the salary?: Now already . . .

The sheer sum of her salary made a decisive contribution to Patricia Schlesinger losing her position as RBB boss. The journalist received 303,000 euros a year for managing the two-country institution with its 3,500 permanent and freelance employees.

The amount was no secret. ARD publishes director salaries every year. But it was only when Schlesinger’s husband’s highly remunerated consultancy contract with Messe Berlin came to light in the summer, which the head of the RBB board of directors is said to have been involved in brokering, that the 303,000 euros attracted public interest – and with it the question of what constitutes an appropriate salary is. According to the general mood, Patricia Schlesinger’s was not.

Berlin was traditionally a rather egalitarian city, with its large bureaucracy in East and West. But in recent years, the gap between high and low earners has widened here as well. The corona pandemic shed light on the disproportion, because suddenly everyone was dependent on people from the lower income brackets: the cashiers and nurses. But the salary structure hasn’t changed since then.

Patricia Schlesinger, former RBB director, earned 303,000 euros a year.
Patricia Schlesinger, former RBB director, earned 303,000 euros a year.
© Photo: dpa/Hendrik Schmidt

The fact that the great justice debate about income from work did not materialize is also due to the fact that salary is a taboo subject in Germany. Most don’t even know it from their closest colleagues. At the same time, society would have to come to an agreement about what it considers appropriate right now, since the burden of inflation has to be shared.

When the Tagesspiegel asked Berliners to talk to us about their salary, it met with an unexpectedly large response. Among other things, a fashion designer, a pizza delivery girl, a cameraman from the RBB and a nun made a cash register for us and reported what work and money mean to them.

But in the higher salary classes we experienced the notorious shyness, even if the incomes are known and not excessive. For example, Franziska Giffey and her deputy Bettina Jarasch did not want to give an interview on the subject. Berlin’s head of government is entitled to 206,780 euros a year according to the salary table of the state of Berlin.

A spokeswoman declined the interview request to Christian Stäblein, the evangelical bishop of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia, on the grounds that “we see no substantive benefit and no relevance for the public in the bishop’s participation in such a survey.” . She refers to the publicly accessible salary table of the Protestant Church, which also applies to the bishop. The highest level there is 7200 euros per month.

The salaries of Berlin’s CEOs are rather generous.

Gunther Friedl, Management Professor

So the city’s top earners are somewhere else: in the closed world of boardrooms. There is Dominik Richter from the cooking box startup “HelloFresh”, who earned 4.583 million euros last year, and Niklas Östberg from “Delivery Hero”, who received 4.375 million. “Compared to other German companies, the salaries of the Berlin CEOs are rather generous,” says management professor Gunther Friedl from the Technical University of Munich.

The exception is Zalando, whose bosses each earned 78,000 euros last year. “To be fair, you have to say: These are the founders who have large shares, and that’s why it distorts the view a bit,” says Friedl. For years he and his doctoral students have been evaluating the annual reports of Dax and MDax companies based on the remuneration of the board members. “We want to make the discussion about board salaries a bit more objective by creating transparency.”

The employer rating portal Kununu, on which employees can post their salaries anonymously, is also about transparency. The aim is for Kununu users to be better prepared for salary negotiations. It is therefore most lucrative to be a partner in a law firm, followed by a position as chief physician. Bakery salespeople end up with 23,000 euros a year, which is about half the average salary in Berlin.

According to the Berlin-Brandenburg Statistics Office, workers and employees in Berlin earned an average of 41,082 euros last year. Salaries have risen by between 3 and 4.5 percent annually since 2014, without taking inflation into account. Even in the Corona year 2020, income grew by 2.3 percent. This puts Berlin in third place in a federal state comparison, behind Hamburg and Hesse.

But there are differences in the city: According to the Federal Employment Agency, men still earned 91 euros more a month than women at the end of 2021. And in Pankow and Mitte, a household has an income that is almost twice as high as in Spandau, which is at the bottom in the district ranking. This probably explains why only 60 percent of Berliners are satisfied with their salary, as calculated by the Kununu portal. This puts Berlin in 15th place in Germany, behind Frankfurt am Main and Dresden.

The start-up Einhorn has chosen the most consistent path so that its employees do not quarrel with their earnings. You can choose it yourself. After they were initially able to name a sum according to their needs and their sense of justice, there is now a set of rules. The complete freedom was unsettling, says Markus Wörner, who is a member of the salary committee of the company that sells fairly produced condoms, tampons and pads. “The topic of salary is associated with many fears, there is so much appreciation in it.”

If a Einhorn employee asks for a salary increase, the commission determines a base value that is derived from living conditions, professional experience and responsibility in the company. A feedback session with all employees is associated with every salary interview. There the employee can correct the value by 2000 euros upwards and downwards.

Patricia Schlesinger also sought another salary interview in July after invitations to eat at the broadcaster’s expense became known. “I offered the acting chairman of the board of directors, Dorette König, that we discuss my salary again in the committee,” she said in an interview with the Tagesspiegel. The suggestion to bargain down one’s own income is extraordinary. But that didn’t happen anymore.

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