German companies announce massive layoffs and social cuts

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A series of announcements from German companies, administrations, businesses and the social sector has dramatic consequences for several thousand workers. Hardly a day goes by without news of new corporate bankruptcies, layoffs and rationalization measures, leading to huge cuts in wages and working conditions.

Demonstration against job cuts at the Daimler factory in Berlin Marienfelde, November 2020. [Photo: WSWS]

The ruling elite in Germany and across Europe is using the economic crisis and runaway inflation to enact a massive assault on social gains. German banks have been able to benefit from huge state handouts and the country’s major energy and auto companies are posting record profits, while at the same time small and medium-sized businesses are being pushed en masse into insolvency and tens of thousands of laid-off workers.

In doing so, business leaders build on long-established plans to maximize their profits. According to a survey of 1,060 companies by the Ifo Institute, 25% plan to cut jobs in Germany. In the last Ifo survey in April, this figure stood at 14%. Around 90% expect price increases. A complete shutdown of production is currently considered likely by 13% of companies and the relocation of operations abroad by 9%.

In their attack on the working class, the employers and their professional associations are working closely with the unions and the government. To that end, this spring the so-called concerted action was revived – a corporatist mechanism, which already served to suppress class struggles in the 1970s.

The Federal Government in Berlin is using the war in Ukraine to push forward a comprehensive military build-up, which has also been planned and prepared for a long time. At the same time, German companies are using the sanctions and their economic war against Russia to reinforce their dominance in Europe and the world at the cost of this great power policy imposed on the working class. This is the backdrop for the massive social attacks taking place right now.

The following is an overview of the latest news, but it does not claim to be complete and should be updated daily. The WSWS Editorial Board calls on its readers to tell us about the new firings and their own experiences in order to organize and coordinate resistance against these attacks.

Detail: The Galeria department store group is canceling its “reorganization contract agreement” reached by the Verdi union in 2019. The company wants to reorganize but, as Verdi admits, at the expense of its workers. They will lose their contractual security of pay, employment and location. Many branches of the group will have to close. In addition, no new interim is likely to be hired. Last January alone, the company received a 220 million euro bailout from the federal government.

Foodstuffs: At pasta producer Riesa Nudeln in Saxony, negotiations between the NGG (food workers) union and the family of entrepreneurs Freidler broke down after a four-week strike. The NGG union wanted to raise the €12.51 minimum wage for many of the 140 workers (in addition to the 30-40 unaffected temporary workers) by one euro immediately and another euro next year. Even this miserable offer was rejected by management.

Dr. Oetker Food Products has announced plans to save €250 million per year and cut jobs in all areas of the company and in all of its affiliated branches in 40 different countries.

Electronic: The new boss of the Dutch multinational Philips plans to cut 4,000 of the company’s 78,000 jobs.

Bosch closes its plant in Arnstad, Thuringia, and lays off 100 workers. Alternator regulators have been produced there since 2014. At the plant in Eisenach, also in Thuringia, 600 Bosch colleagues recently took part in a short warning strike. In Bühl in Baden-Württemberg, the works council canceled a long-planned meeting for the three teams at short notice because, according to it, the company had funding problems. The company intends to lay off 300 of its 3,500 employees and relocate production to Eastern Europe where, according to the chairman of the works council, there is no protection against dismissal and workers work 12 hours a day.

Siemens Gamesa is cutting 2,900 jobs worldwide, or around 10% of its workforce. The wind turbine manufacturer, a subsidiary of the electrical engineering group Siemens Energy, plans to cut 800 jobs in Denmark, 475 in Spain and 300 in Germany.

Chemical industry: With a new savings program, BASF plans to save 500 million euros per year from 2025 and to cut jobs in an as yet undetermined number. Last year, BASF had already laid off 6,000 workers. The job cuts will primarily affect the company’s main site in Ludwigshafen, where 39,000 of its 110,700 employees currently work; 250 million euros will be saved there.

In the chemical company Grace in Worms, Rhineland-Palatinate, 100 of the 840 jobs are to be cut. A total of 4,300 employees in more than 60 countries currently work for the company.

Metallurgical and mining industries: In Eisenhüttenstadt, in Brandenburg, 900 steelworkers are on short-time work. At a protest last month, they demanded an end to the war in Ukraine and affordable energy.

In Nordenham, Lower Saxony, 400 workers were also forced to work part-time with the zinc smelter to halt production for a full year.

Mechanical Engineering: The special machine manufacturer Zippel in Neutraubling, Bavaria, is insolvent and 94 workers will lose their jobs.

Contrary to previous claims, FLSmidth, a conveyor technology provider, now wants to cut almost all of the 140 jobs at its St. Ingbert-Rohrbach site. The company only bought the plant from steel giant ThyssenKrupp last September.

Automobile industry: According to an S&P report, European car production could fall by more than a million vehicles per quarter in 2023. Rising energy costs are straining supply chains. Parts shortages and bottlenecks could even lead companies to halt production altogether. In this case, S&P expects a production shortfall of 4.8 million to 6.8 million units on an annual basis.

In Ingolstadt, Bavaria, Audi is experiencing shift cancellations on two out of three production lines due, among other things, to semiconductor supply issues. The entire automotive industry was already in trouble due to supply problems related to electrical harnesses at the very beginning of the NATO proxy war in Ukraine.

Opel’s partner Segula plans to lay off 250 of the 750 workers in Rüsselsheim, Hesse.

The Ford plant in Saarlouis will be gradually closed and around 4,000 of the plant’s 4,600 employees will be made redundant. This will lead to the elimination of several thousand additional jobs in the factories of suppliers to an already structurally weak region.

Mercedes forces up to 2,500 employees in Bremen to work part-time.

After protests against the dismissal of 690 ZF (Zahnradfabrik Friedrichshafen) workers in Eitorf, the IG Metall union intervened, asking the company to organize the job cuts in a “socially acceptable” way.

The automotive supplier Schaeffler cuts 1,300 additional jobs in Ingolstadt and Morbach and stresses: “The measure must be as socially acceptable as possible on the basis of the agreement concluded with IG Metall in 2018.” In the coming months, “localization concepts must be developed with employee representatives”.

At Volkswagen, the non-strike period under the current contract ends on November 30, 2022. The new negotiations will affect VW’s core workforce in Braunschweig, Wolfsburg, Kassel, Salzgitter, Hanover, Emden and other plants. For some 125,000 employees, the first round of negotiations ended without result. Despite a historic record dividend for shareholders, similar to that granted by Mercedes-Benz and BMW, the union is only asking for just over 8%, well below the rate of inflation.

Based on contract bargaining cycles in the public sector and the engineering sector, the WSWS wrote: “The current round of collective bargaining and the strong will of workers to resist the slide into poverty and subsistence must be the starting point of an offensive against war and its social consequences. To compensate for the current rate of inflation and past reductions in real wages, we must fight for double-digit wage increases, not just 8%.

In this struggle, workers face concerted opposition from the unions, which support the federal government’s policy of war against Russia and operate as a corporate police force, an extended arm of management tasked with thwarting all workers’ demands. in the factories.

There is a need to break this union domination and build independent grassroots action committees in the factories to organize the fight against job cuts, wage cuts and war, and to network internationally.

The International Committee of the Fourth International created the International Alliance of Rank and File Committee Workers (IWA-RFC) to give direction to these committees and enable them to coordinate internationally.

This is the only way to avoid the threat of war and its consequences in the form of job cuts and huge wage cuts. We call on all workers to contact us by WhatsApp message at the following number: +491633378340 or register for the grassroots committees below.

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