German Automotive Industry Coping With Widespread Strikes

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

With the UAW currently coping with a high-profile corruption scandal in the United States, news of Germany’s widespread auto strikes has taken a backseat in domestic media. Last Friday, IG Metall concluded its third day of striking against Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Porsche, Audi, VW, and BMW.

However the 72-hours of downtime may only be the appetizer in the German union’s strike-buffet. While both IG Metall and the manufacturers have expressed a willingness to resume talks on Monday, the union remains on the cusp of a vote that could extend striking indefinitely. Here’s why they are so pissed:

The group has requested an 8 percent pay rise over 27 months for 3.9 million workers in the metal and engineering sectors. It’s also asking to reduce weekly hours from 35 to 28 so employees can care for children or ailing relatives, and to be able to return to full-time after two years.

According to Reuters, automakers have counter offered with a 6.8 percent wage increase, but have refused to comply with the demand for shorter hours. They said, without the flexibility to increase workers’ hours when necessary, the deal is a nonstarter. Manufacturers also didn’t believe it was fair to compensate workers who were cutting their hours. Several employers are also challenging the strikes in court and seeking damages.

Roughly half a million workers took part in the German strikes by the end of last week. IG Metall said production was impacted at 280 companies — including dozens of smaller suppliers of items used in the production of cars, aircraft, and machinery. But it was the automotive sector that took the hardest hit.

“Now it is up to the employers to understand the signal we are sending and make a significant improvement to their offer. If the employers are willing to do that, talks can resume on Monday,” IG Metall chief Joerg Hofmann said in a statement.

[Image: Volkswagen Group]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • TomLU86 TomLU86 on Feb 05, 2018

    America has delusions of grandeur, as we are living way beyond our means, and drowning in debt. As for the "UAW screwing the US Auto Industry with their greed", I concede that the UAW played a big role. However, a MUCH bigger role was the greed and ineptitude of senior management. The UAW was/is like the common cold, or more accurately, a case of hemorrhoids. Management is like a bad heart condition, if not a cancer... When GM was at the top of it's game, in the mid-1960s, what was the ratio of CEO to worker pay? And what was it in the 1980s? Or 90s? Or 2000s? Or now?

    • Highdesertcat Highdesertcat on Feb 05, 2018

      Probably a lot of truth in what you wrote but President Trump is a dedicated and self-declared union man who is pushing for more union membership with the help of Richard Trump ka and the creation of more manufacturing jobs in the US of A. Robots are indeed the wave of the future but until then, it's more union more of the time. The UAW hasn't changed its stripes of the past. It's still the same old, same old, business as usual.

  • Sub-600 Sub-600 on Feb 05, 2018

    America: Going out of business since 1776. All I can say is “Lighten up, Francis”

    • TomLU86 TomLU86 on Feb 05, 2018

      Good one Sub-100, thanks :) To paraphrase a famous(ly overrated) politician: "America in 2018 is not a good place to be. Except for all the others." I'm here, so I hope I'm right...

  • Bob65688581 We bought zillions of German cars, despite knowing about WWII slave labor. Refusing to buy something for ideological reasons is foolish.Both the US and the EU have imposed tariffs, so the playing field is level. I'll buy the best price/quality, regardless of nationality.Another interesting question would be "Would you buy one of the many new European moderate-price EVs?" but of course they aren't sold here.Third interesting question: "Why won't Stellantis sell its best products in America?"
  • Freshblather No. Worried there will be malicious executable code built into the cars motherboard that could disable the Chinese cars in the event of hostilities between the west and China.
  • Bd2 Absolutely not - do not want to support a fascist, totalitarian regime.
  • SCE to AUX The original Capri was beautiful. The abomination from the 90s was no Capri, and neither is this.It looks good, but too similar to a Polestar. And what's with the whacked price?
  • Rover Sig Absolutely not. Ever.
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