Minimum wage may be forced on Angela Merkel to build 'grand coalition'

German leader’s potential coalition partners seek concessions before forming a government

Berlin

Germany’s opposition Social Democrats have declared that the introduction of a hitherto taboo national minimum wage rate is a key precondition which would determine whether the party formed a new “grand coalition” government with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling conservatives.

The demand was spelled out by Social Democrat (SPD) leader Sigmar Gabriel following initial talks in the wake of Ms Merkel’s  victory in Germany’s September general election, which left her just short of an absolute majority. Mr Gabriel told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that Ms Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) would have to drop their opposition to a minimum wage and agree to labour market reforms and greater investment in education for his party to agree to a CDU-SPD alliance.

“It is high time that decent wages were paid for decent work again,” he said. “We are only prepared to join a coalition government if we can make progress for people in our country. We are not going to do it just to secure a few cabinet posts”.

Unlike most of its European neighbours, Germany has baulked at the idea of a minimum wage for decades, not least because the Nazis strictly controlled all pay movements. A post-war consensus has ensured that pay rates have been agreed solely between employers and unions.

But an upsurge in new, non-unionised poorly-paid jobs, encouraged, ironically, by former SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s labour market reforms a decade ago, has increased the size of the low-pay sector from 15 to 22 per cent since the late 1990s. A total of 32 per cent of workers are not covered by union-employee pay agreements.

With Germany continuing to attract tens of thousands of new “guest workers” from crisis-hit Eurozone countries, who are desperate for jobs, many service-sector companies have chosen to exploit the situation by paying as little as market forces allow.

The SPD and the Greens campaigned vigorously for the introduction of a €8.50 per hour minimum wage in the run up to the election. But the idea is still strongly opposed by conservatives, market economists and the Bundesbank. They fear the measure will blunt the competitive edge which has given Germany its economic prowess.

Bundesbank President, Jens Weidemann argued last month that a minimum wage would “make it harder for those without specific skills to enter the job market”.

Ms Merkel has so far insisted that there should be little change to the status quo which she says should be merely extended. However, with the SPD, the unions and her other possible coalition partners the Greens all in favour of a minimum wage, Ms Merkel may find herself obliged to agree.

Mr Gabriel stressed yesterday that the question of whether his party formed another grand coalition with Ms Merkel’s conservatives still remained wide open. Many in the SPD rank and file are opposed to the idea. They point out that after joining Ms Merkel’s first grand coalition in 2005, the SPD suffered one of its worst electoral defeats ever. “We did all the work, but Merkel’s lot took all the credit,” insisted one disgruntled SPD insider.

The SPD is scheduled to meet the CDU for further coalition talks on 14 October. The SPD leadership says it may ballot the party’s entire membership on whether to join forces with the CDU. However Ms Merkel will meet with Green leaders this Thursday to discuss the possibility of a “black-green” coalition.

Peter Altmaier, Germany’s CDU Environment Minister, declared yesterday that the chances of such an alliance had increased from being merely “theoretical” to “conceivable”.

News
people
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Life and Style
food + drinkFrom Mediterranean Tomato Tart to Raw Caramel Peanut Pie
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Extras
Boys to men: there’s nothing wrong with traditional ‘manly’ things, until masculinity is used to exclude people
indybest13 best grooming essentials
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Life and Style
healthMovember isn't about a moustache trend, it saves lives
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities