Protests on the sidelines of collective bargaining (archive image)
Photo: Christoph Soeder / dpa
Under normal circumstances, one would have said that it was an unspectacular collective bargaining round in the public service: concluded after a few warning strikes and within the planned three rounds of negotiations.
With very clear nuisances for the citizens, without the failure of the talks, without a strike vote, without real strikes, without arbitration.
With a result that can be understood as a compromise in the best sense of the word.
In the case of employees in the low wage groups, salaries will rise by 4.5 percent in the next two years and the highest wage groups by 3.2 percent.
For nursing staff, salaries rise by 8.7 percent up to ten percent at the top for intensive care workers.
This is not just a thank you to the so-called "heroes of everyday life", but also the employers' knowledge that the blatant shortage of workers in this area can only be eliminated through better working conditions.
And that includes the wages to a large extent.
Apprentices and interns also receive a little more money.
Part of the compromise, however, is that the 175,000 or so employees of the savings banks, which are battered by low interest rates, will have lower wage increases than other public sector employees.
An emergency collective agreement is being negotiated for the employees of the airports that are threatened in their existence, which is intended to reduce personnel costs and at the same time exclude redundancies for operational reasons.
Employers and unions have thus proven that they can differentiate under his roof according to professional groups and different requirements.
The collective agreement works.
Under normal circumstances, that would be the only message from this agreement.
Normality in extraordinary times
But the times are not normal, and a look at the increasing number of new corona infections every day shows that change is still a long way off.
That is the special quality of this collective bargaining round.
Because it was also a test of how much normality is possible in extraordinary times, the end of which is not in sight.
In view of the pandemic, some warned that the unions should, in these times, please hold back from the outset or even forego demands altogether.
But that's dangerous.
If the virus does not simply go away quickly, society must learn how to live with it and continue to conduct the necessary disputes that form the basis of democracy and define the self-image of a social market economy - collective bargaining and the right to strike are part of these fundamental rights.
They also negotiate how the costs of the corona pandemic will be distributed.
This also applies to the coming collective bargaining rounds, for example in the metal and electrical industries.
In the public sector, unions and employers have shown that it is possible.
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