Energy and food prices have skyrocketed since the start of the Ukraine war and the government’s insane economic sanctions. The constant short-time work has already led to severe financial losses. Many workers are faced with the question of how they will be able to pay for fuel, rent, heating, loans and the livelihood of their families in the future.
IG Metall has now declared that the current and upcoming collective bargaining negotiations are not intended to compensate for inflation. “Exorbitant inflation rates cannot be compensated for by collective bargaining,” said Roman Zitzelsberger, district manager of IG Metall in Baden-Württemberg and chief negotiator for the union for pilot deals.
When asked “Why not?”, Zitzelsberger replies that the high inflation rates are the result of political decisions and must therefore be corrected by “politics”.
So far, the unions have always said that wage setting is the sole responsibility of the collective bargaining partners and that the government is not allowed to make any specifications. Inflation plus productivity growth served as a rule of thumb for calculating wage demands.
Now Zitzelsberger is turning the tables and claims that the massive loss of income caused by price increases is not a benchmark for wage demands and wage agreements. In other words: IG Metall is entering the collective bargaining round with the declared goal of lowering real wages.
Zitzelsberger thinks he can throw a spanner in the works’ eyes by claiming that the government is responsible for adjusting for inflation. But everyone knows that the question of price increases has been an important argument in all collective bargaining so far. And now that the price increases are threatening our existence, that should no longer be the case!
In truth, IG Metall is supporting the government and corporations in the biggest pay robbery in decades. A few weeks ago, Zitzelsberger signed a joint statement with the employers’ association Südwestmetall on behalf of IG Metall, which welcomes the “closed and determined” response of Germany, Europe and its allies to Russia’s military aggression.
“We support the measures that have been taken,” emphasized both associations. Zitzelsberger and employer president Porth left no doubt that the dramatic increase in military spending was also meant. They expressly welcomed the sanctions against Russia, despite their dire impact on the population in Russia and here. “These measures will require sacrifices from all of us,” the statement said.
Now IG Metall is forcing the workers to make these “sacrifices” by refusing inflation compensation and agreeing real wage reductions in collective agreements. As the government’s henchman, it is thus forcing the working class to finance the arms deliveries to Ukraine, the NATO war against Russia and the gigantic military build-up of the German armed forces.
This turns the fight against war and rearmament into a fight against the trade unions, which serve as an extension of the government and employers’ associations.
The same Zitzelsberger who is now preaching wage cuts also declares at every opportunity that it is impossible to defend jobs in the auto and parts industry. He repeats the arguments of the bosses who declared war on the workers. Not a week goes by without them announcing new mass layoffs. Ford, Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen, Mahle, Bosch, Continental and ZF each want to destroy thousands of jobs.
A study by the SPD and the union-affiliated Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation (FES) predicted the loss of 500,000 jobs in the automotive sector three years ago. A recent study by the Ifo Institute expects 178,000 jobs to be lost in production over the next four years alone. Massive jobs are also being destroyed in other sectors – at Siemens, ThyssenKrupp, BASF and in the shipyards.
This workplace massacre is justified by technological change and the switch to electromobility. But that’s a lie. Technological progress and climate protection are not the reason for the destruction of the livelihoods of millions of people. Socially planned and democratically controlled, they could significantly increase the standard of living for all of humanity.
What it’s really about is profit. The globally active car companies and their billionaire shareholders are waging a brutal international predatory struggle at the expense of the workers, which is increasingly turning into trade wars and wars. They are using the Ukraine war and the corona pandemic to exploit the workers to the death. They are cutting jobs, intensifying the rush to work, lowering wages and closing and relocating entire plants.
The greed of the financial oligarchy literally knows no bounds. Despite the corona pandemic and the war in Ukraine, the 40 largest listed companies in Germany were able to record massive growth and record profits in the first quarter of 2022 alone. According to the auditing and consulting company EY, both sales and profits were higher than ever.
Overall, the turnover of the DAX companies rose by 14 percent to 444.7 billion euros compared to the same period last year. The operating profit was also improved by 21 percent and totaled 52.4 billion euros. This is the highest profit ever recorded in the first quarter of a year.
But the unions preach renunciation, demand wage reductions, agree on social cuts and agree to plant closures and layoffs. The signs point to a storm. More workers are realizing that struggle is inevitable. Resistance is growing around the world. The largest wave of strikes in decades is building in the USA. In Sri Lanka, a general strike against inflation turned into an anti-government uprising. In Turkey, workers have occupied an auto parts factory.
Great class struggles are inevitable. But to win, the workers must break with the unions. IG Metall is reacting to the growing willingness to fight in the factories by throwing itself even more closely at the corporate executives and the government.
Build independent action committees!
The class struggle is international. Workers face the same multinational corporations and financial interests around the world. Therefore they must not allow themselves to be divided. The fight against war and military rearmament is directly linked to the fight against inflation and the principled defense of all jobs. It demands international cooperation and coordination of all struggles.
This requires a break with the unions and the establishment of independent action committees. They have to organize the fight against inflation and wage cuts, plant closures, layoffs and social cuts, and establish connections with employees in other locations and countries.
A year ago, the International Committee of the Fourth International and its affiliated Socialist Equality Parties initiated the International Workers’ Alliance of Action Committees to create, as we wrote, “a framework for new forms of independent and democratic struggle organizations of factory, school and industrial workers at the international level.” to accomplish.
The task now is to set up action committees in numerous companies that will make defending living standards and jobs a matter of principle.
No sacrifices for the government’s war chest and no consent to layoffs and social cuts in the interests of shareholder and speculator profit!
The right to work and a decent wage is a fundamental right. The working class must not be allowed to be plunged into misery in the name of war, military build-up and the profit interests of the super-rich. It is about defending the livelihood of the only progressive class that can solve society’s problems.
The establishment of independent action committees is directly linked to the struggle for a socialist perspective. Not a single problem can be solved without breaking the power of the financial aristocracy. Only the expropriation of corporations and banks without compensation creates the conditions for democratic control over production. Only then is it possible to develop production according to plan, in the interests of the working class and social needs.
All workers who are unwilling to support and make sacrifices for war and militarism and who wish to fight against government and corporate attacks are invited to contact the Socialist Equality Party, which World Socialist Web Site to read and theirs Autoworker Newsletter to subscribe.
We take a daily position on the most important political events and inform you about the struggles of workers around the world. We help you to set up action committees and develop international contacts. And we are building the Fourth International as an international socialist workers’ party.