An agreement has finally been reached in the long-running pay dispute for Germany's more than 2 million federal and local public sector workers. The end is nigh for an antiquated system that ran counter to efficiency.
Productivity will play more of a role in their work
After two solid days of talks behind closed doors and two drawn-out years of negotiations between employer groups and unions, the deal will not only establish a 39-hour work week for federal employees throughout the country, with local government workers given the possibility of agreeing to the same terms, but it will extensively and radically reform the current wage system, according to German Interior Minister Otto Schily.
"What we've agreed upon is a remarkable piece of reform," Schily said. "We're replacing an out-of-date pay system and will radically modernize it with this agreement."
Negotiators say the deal is a turning point that will strengthen the public sector's efficiency. The term 'efficiency' may be considered synonymous with Germany, but workers in the public sector here have a different reputation -- as a result of the numerous benefits they receive, including automatic allowances based on age or marital status and subsidized wedding costs.
The reforms include promoting employee productivity, more flexible work times and bringing into line the hours worked in the country's east and west. The work week had previously been 38.5 hours in the western part of Germany and 40 hours in the former German Democratic Republic.
Chief negotiator Thomas Böhle, from the employers' association, said reaching the deal wasn't easy, but it's proof of a good working relationship between the parties involved.
"We worked together extremely well and made some real progress towards the very end of the talks," he said. "And one giant step was managing to prevent the further privatization of public services."
Verdi's Frank Bsirske (r.) and Interior Minister Otto Schily announced the deal Wednesday.
Although compromises were made by both the employer groups and union bosses involved in what they described as "intense" negotiations, both sides signaled a positive result. Frank Bsirske, head of the Verdi services union, said that besides simplifying the pay structure, the new measures will also make the sector more attractive to younger workers by increasing pay for career beginners.
"In my opinion, what we have here is a rounded concept, laying the foundations for the future -- with considerably more value placed on performance-related pay," Bsirske said.
The new model is expected to come into effect by October and will apply for civil servants on a federal and local level for the next three years. Public sector workers on a state level are thrashing out a separate deal.