Short-time Workers Double in German Metals Sector

Oct. 9, 2012
This type of work traditionally involves the state paying between 60% and 67% of workers' net salary for six months.

The number of staff in Germany's key metalworking and electronics sector employed short time due to slacker demand doubled in September, the main industry association said Tuesday.

The Gesamtmetall employers association confirmed a report in the daily Bild that 29,500 staff were working shorter hours for less pay last month -- twice the number in August -- as firms in Europe's top economy weather tougher times.

Gesamtmetall president Rainer Dulger warned against "panic", telling Bild that things could not always go "full speed ahead" in the industry, which encompasses Germany's mighty automobile sector.

He said the sector was not suffering from a "crisis mood" and that compared to the worst years of economic turmoil in 2008 and 2009 with around 480,000 short-time employees, the current number was relatively low.

"If the situation gets worse, the government will need to put in place measures quickly for short-time work, which has proved effective," he said.

Gesamtmetall employs 3.6 million people in Germany and is heavily reliant on exports.

Short-time work in Germany traditionally involves the state paying between 60% and 67% of workers' net salary for six months.

During the economic crisis of 2009, Berlin extended this scheme for up to two years, which helped keep unemployment levels down. It ended earlier this year amid robust growth in Germany.

But fearing a looming slowdown, the powerful IG Metall trade union called in late August for a return of the program.

In 2009, more than one million employees across the country were working short time on average, at more than 49,000 companies. In 2010, the number fell to an average of 429,000.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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