Jul 19, 2004
DaimlerChrysler Corporation (DCX) has had good results taking concessions from U.S. workers, and now it is applying the same strategy against the workers in Germany.
DCX says that unless German workers give up concessions, the company will eliminate 6,000 jobs at the Mercedes plant in Sindelfingen, and move the work to where it claims labor costs are cheaper – in north Germany and in South Africa.
DCX demands that the Mercedes workers give up five minutes' paid break per hour, that is normally banked toward paid days off. Other reported demands include that the workers give up their scheduled raise in 2005, and reduce their shift premiums – currently 15% for shifts that start after noon, and 30% for shifts that start after 7 p.m.
DCX executives say that their company can't stay competitive unless workers' wages and benefits go down. Where have we heard that line before? For twenty years, U.S. auto workers have given up dollar after dollar in wage and benefit cuts – and job after job in speed-up – under company threats of outsourcing work to the South, or to Mexico, or to any other place they say wages will be lower.
It's come to the point that now, in Germany, auto companies are using the U.S. itself as an example of a low-wage, low-cost country! The companies claim that wage costs in Germany are now 12% higher than in the U.S. And that German workers put in 18% fewer hours per year than U.S. workers!
The CEO of DCX's Mercedes division actually called workers' 5-minute paid breaks a "disease."
But the real "disease" is the concessions infection, a social virus carried by companies from one place to another, around the whole world.
The union IG Metall organized a week of protests by Mercedes workers, capped by a 24-hour walkout of about 60,000 on July 15. More power to the German workers!