17.08.2022, Niedersachsen, Hannover: Michael Vassiliadis (l), Vorsitzender der Industriegewerkschaft Bergbau, Chemie, Energie, wird von Stephan Weil (r, SPD), Ministerpräsident von Niedersachsen, mit dem Verdienstorden der Bundesrepublik Deutschland ausgezeichnet. Foto: Moritz Frankenberg/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

In the upcoming collective bargaining negotiations, the IG BCE union wants to push through a so-called relief allowance. Similar to the gas surcharge and the reduction in VAT, employees could receive this special payment from October to March 2024 – provided the employer agrees to it. Collective bargaining for 580,000 chemical workers was interrupted in the spring due to the war in Ukraine and uncertainty about economic development. The sequel is due in October and at the same time the “biggest stress test for society in decades”, as the IG-BCE chairman Michael Vassiliadis said in a press conference on Thursday evening. “The social issue has returned with full force.” The trade unions have to adapt to this and get more involved in the discussion about what is fair and how to finance additional tasks fairly. “We want to be at the center of the debate.”

According to Vassiliadis, the roughly 1,900 chemical companies in Germany are doing well for the most part. How long remains to be seen, however, and exceptions confirm the rule: “The glass, ceramics and paper industries will be hit with full force by the exploding gas prices,” said the union leader and called on the federal government to also allow short-time work there “where the high gas prices are forcing production shutdowns”. The share of energy in the overall costs is around 30 percent in the chemical industry, while personnel only account for 14 percent. The companies could therefore cope with a decent wage increase, said Vassiliadis. And if not, deviations from the tariff are allowed upon request.

The head of the trade union, who was a member of the coal commission and is a member of the SPD, explains the difficult situation in the coming autumn with omissions and wrong decisions. Germany is now paying the price “for messing up the energy transition, ignoring modern gas production and CO2 storage technologies and making itself dependent on Russia”. The core task in the coming months is to keep the economy running and to set priorities.

Growth has increasingly weakened in recent months, and a recession is imminent. Against this background, complying with the debt brake and forgoing tax increases, as Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) proclaimed, is impossible. “Given the challenges we face, a technocratic adherence to the debt brake cannot be a progressive policy,” said Vassiliadis. “In addition, it is long overdue to broaden the focus on questions of tax justice – for example, the different burdens on labor and capital.” is.

The trade unionist expressed skepticism about the excess profit tax. There is also no lower profit tax. It would be more sensible to discuss corporate taxes as a whole and to clarify what one wants to tax: “factors of production or corporate success”.