marctomarket.com / By Marc Chandler / March 15, 2013
Last week more than 3/4 a million state workers in Germany won a 5.6% wage increase over a 2-year contract. Today I.G. Metall, the largest and most important private sector union, confirmed that at negotiations the begin on March 19, it will seek a 5.5% wage increase over the next year. Separately, large Japanese companies have indicated willingness to grant higher wages and/or bonuses as the spring labor negotiations get under way.
It is, of course, easy to succumb to the cynical view that the civil servant wage increase in Germany is an election year ploy. Last year’s pay hike for municipal workers did not in fact carry over and boost Merkel’s CDU in the numerous state elections last year. Simply put, the situation is much more complicated.
Real wages rose in Germany rose for the third consecutive 2012 and appear set to do so again here in 2013. Look at the quarterly pattern of nominal wage increases in Germany last year: 2.1% in Q1, 2.5% in Q2, 3.0% in Q3 and 3.2% in Q4.
Private sector wages increases have little to do with any purported government electioneering. Last year, I.G. Metall sought a 6.5% increase, but in the end accepted a 4.3% increase covering 13 months–which at some 7 bln euros, was the biggest award in two decades.
Yes, the employers association (Gesamtmetall) will push back against the 5.5% demand. It argues that output fell last year and only a small increase is likely this year. The employees are seeking to recoup some of the ground lost to inflation and productivity growth after years of wage restraint. Warning strikes–limited industrial action– is possible in the coming weeks.