The powerful industrial working class in Germany came into the scene and featured the strongest wave of strikes since 1984 when it conquered the work-week of 35 hours instead of 40. Its organization and struggle show the path to follow.
By Daniel Sugasti.
On last Thursday, German workers stopped activities for 24 h in over 260 companies, including 80 electric and metal plants. About a 1,5 million workers participated, in a process that combined warning-strikes and full-strikes.
The main union in the country, IG Metal, was the leadership. Since 2012, its members grew from 2,3 million to 4 million (in the present).
After six rounds of negotiations with the also giant Suedwestmetall, the result was a wage raise of 4.3% starting on April this year, plus a one-time payment of 100 euros in the first trimester, besides other payments along 27 months, and the deepest change was the possibility to reduce the work shift to 28h a week for a segment of workers.
The union spokesman, Roman Zitzelsberger, celebrated the agreement from Stuttgart, stating that “workers will have more money in their pockets in real terms, they will have a fair share of the companies’ benefits, and this will encourage consumption.”
On his side, the Suedwestmetall representative, Stefan Wolf, pointed that the cost of it for the bosses is lower than 4% a year.
The limits of the IG Metall proposal are evident: regarding wages, the agreement is under the 6% demanded by the rank and file; regarding the work shift, it will not be national nor permanent (two years at most) and might include wage reduction. Furthermore, in exchange the bosses will be allowed to hire more workers on a 40h scale, violating the legal week of 35h.
The “pilot” agreement is valid until March 2020, and it is valid only for the South-East region of the country.
Although it is evident that the achievements are behind the class’ actions, the dynamics of the process is essential. The mobilization potential of the working class is giant. Bosses of companies like Audi, BMW, Porsche, Siemens, and others, has to leave their intransigence aside and accept the situation, as after the “warning” strikes that lasted 24h the IG Metall threatened with voting a general strike of the metal industry.
The successfull negotiation was determined directly by the direct struggle and its potention of developing further on.
To have an idea of the impact of this “rehearsal” of the German working class, only the warning-strikes costed almost 200 million Euros in lost incomes to vehicles factories, providers, and engeneering companies. Among the most affected ones there were Daimler, BMW, and Airbus.
It is not hard to understand why the bosses and bureaucracy hurried to sign an agreement. The question is: is it enough to stop the process “below”?
The german working class, with its historical tradition, moved and its more moralized than ever regarding its own strength. With this, there is a new reference and new perspectives open for the European peoples. The struggle backstage is the powerful German industry, the spine of the country’s economy and “locomotive of Europe.” The rank and file should surpass its leadership and not stopped in the conquests already achieved, which is important but only a minor part of what they can achieve through moilization and strike. It is necessary to expand the organization through the base and go for more.