They\’ll whine about this won\’t they?

Council workers could be forced to take a week\’s unpaid leave each year as part of radical plans to minimise job losses, it emerged yesterday.

They\’ll whine about it at the same time as they praise Germany\’s reaction to the recession: making lots of people work part time for less money.

It\’s exactly the same basic situation: instead of 5% of the people losing 100% of their income, have 100% of the people lose 5% of their income. Share the pain, you know?

OK, so I don\’t know that they\’ll whine, I just think they will. But if they do we\’ll learn something interesting about the UK labour market. Which is that we can\’t have the sort of consensual German system where unions and management plan together how best to deal with hard times: for the UK unions won\’t plan together like the German ones.

4 thoughts on “They\’ll whine about this won\’t they?”

  1. I may be wrong, but I think in the German system the employees don’t lose any money; the government pays the missing wages? So, as far as the union is concerned, the money comes from the pixie-powered magic money tree that the governments has.

  2. It’s not just British unions: it’s British public sector unions (and the occasional hanger-on from privatisation). There are enough stories of private sector firms in the UK which have held shopfloor discussions about the way forward, with some resolving into short hours and others into voluntary redundancies.

    Amicable agreement happens in the private sector; it would be interesting for someone to study why it’s so rare in the public sector. And whether denationalising the public sector into public services would help.

  3. It’s quite simple. The German unions have a history of supporting their members. British unions have a history of supporting a failed politico-economic system.

  4. In the German system, workers on enforced short time get pro rata pay for the time they work (from their employer), and money from the pixie-powered magic money tree to partially compensate for lost hours. The latter does not cover all of the pay lost to “Kurzarbeit”, but in general covers about half of it.

    The unions are actually not directly involved in this, rather the “Betriebsrat” (workers’ council) of each company has to approve the specific arrangements. This makes it a bit harder for the unions to force a big fight across an entire industry (they do this on pay in general but not stuff like Kurzarbeit), and a bit easier for management to bribe, oops sorry, persuade, the Betriebsrat that what needs doing needs doing.

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