Verdi threatens retailers with strikes during the Christmas season

In the deadlocked wage dispute in the retail sector, the German Retail Association is calling on the Verdi trade union to hold top-level talks at federal level. This does not go unchallenged.

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Man sieht Menschen beim Einkaufen am Weihnachten, mit Lichtern überall.
In the wage dispute in the German retail sector, the trade union Verdi is threatening to strike during the Christmas season. © dpa/Maurizio Gambarini

Berlin. In the wage dispute in the German retail sector, the Verdi trade union with strikes during the Christmas season. This was a reaction on Monday to the announcement of the German Retail Association (HDE), decided not to continue the regional wage negotiations.

The HDE had called on Verdi to hold top-level talks at federal level. "After around 60 negotiation meetings in the last six months, it is clear that we need to find a new level with our social partner," said Steven Haarke, Managing Director of HDE collective bargaining, on Monday. "The aim of the meeting is to reach an agreement on a new, effective negotiation format." Until then, the trade associations see "no point" in further rounds of negotiations at state level.

Verdi called the HDE proposal scandalous, saying it was "a unique event in the history of collective bargaining". It meant "holding a so-called top-level meeting with the group representatives - in other words, with the very people who have so far prevented an improvement in the offers in the collective bargaining negotiations on the employer side for months," said Verdi board member Silke Zimmer. This will not be tolerated. "Strikes during the Christmas period are almost inevitable," she added. Verdi would not refuse to engage in talks, regardless of the level, but collective bargaining must continue and agreed deadlines must be met.

For months, Verdi and the employers in the 16 federal states have been battling for higher wages and salaries for millions of employees. The wage negotiations are being held separately for retail and wholesale and have so far been conducted at state level. Among other things, Verdi is demanding at least 2.50 euros more per hour in all regions in the retail sector and a duration of twelve months. Further demands will be added depending on the federal state.

According to the employers, they are offering a pay rise of at least ten percent in two stages as well as an inflation compensation bonus of 750 euros. The term of the agreement is to be 24 months.

The HDE had already intervened in the conflict a few weeks ago and recommended that companies increase wages before an official wage agreement was reached. Following a decision by the HDE's collective bargaining committee, companies bound by collective agreements have been able to "pay out voluntary, creditable advance increases of 5.3 percent" since October 1. Among other things, the Rewe-Group and several other retail companies followed this recommendation.

Verdi had rejected the pay increase proposed by the HDE as too low. "That's 92 cents an hour for a sales clerk, and that means a loss of real wages. Employees already receive very low wages, and the inflation of the last few months is eating away at wages even more," said union boss Frank Werneke in mid-September. (dpa)

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