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German Opposition Seeks Changes in Job Protection Laws

Germany's conservative opposition parties struggled on Sunday to adopt a joint position for a series of economic reforms designed to kickstart the economy. From a new tax policy, to changes in labor law and wage negotiations, members of the Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), agreed in principle to a common reform position. However, the issues of loosening job protection laws and relaxing rules on nationwide wage deals proved a sticking point for more social-minded members in the parties' left wing. The plan to remove laws protecting workers from job dismissal during their first four years of employment "is way over the top," said CDU deputy party chairman Christoph Böhr. "The plan takes advantage of the miserable state of economy to attack workers' rights," proclaimed the chairman of the Christian Democratic Employee's Association, Hermann-Josef Arentz. But CSU leader Edmund Stoiber and the party's secretary general, Markus Söder, defended the proposals as the best means to create more employment opportunities. "Socially fair is whatever creates jobs," Söder told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. The ruling Social Democrats joined forces with the trade unions in criticizing the opposition's plans as a "cold and brutal" attack on German society.