IG Metall tries to bargain jobs for pay

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IG METALL, Germany's pace-setting engineering workers' union, is looking for wage increases next year of up to 6 per cent.

However, Klaus Zwickel, the union's new chairman, said yesterday that job security was the overriding concern and the union would forgo part of this demand in return for employment guarantees.

The offer made little impression on Gesamtmetall, the engineering employers' federation, which had earlier set the stage for an unusually tough trial of strength by demanding real wage cuts.

Hans-Joachim Gottschol, Gesamtmetall's president, dismissed the union's bid for employment safeguards as 'poison for firms'. He said there could be no binding guarantees for the whole sector.

Mr Zwickel sought to underline IG Metall's willingness to compromise. 'We have set such a broad range so that we can reach a solution,' he said. But he made it clear that the union was not prepared to accept real wage cuts, nor the cutbacks in holiday bonuses the employers are looking for.

The union's 6 per cent wage demand ceiling is calculated on the basis of expected inflation next year of 3.5 per cent plus a productivity increase of at least 2 per cent.

It is this latter margin that IG Metall is offering to bargain against job security. With job losses in the engineering sector estimated to be running at 30,000 a month, the union fears that an avalanche of forced redundancies is looming.

It wants to talk about bringing forward the reduction of the working week to 35 hours, agreed for 1995, as part of its package.

Most independent economists forecast western German inflation of between 3 and 3.5 per cent next year. Although it has not set specific figures, Gesamtmetall has made it clear it is looking for a settlement below this.

The employers' federation last month unilaterally terminated the current pay and holiday contracts for the 3.8 million workers in the industry, the first time it has done so since post-war negotiating began.