The 1st of May has stopped to be the Labour Day. This year the 1st of May is the day of short-time work. Never before in Germany were so many people forced to work short-time. Lots of workers are happy when they are needed three or four days per week.
In the past workers fought for their rights in May 1st, they demanded better working conditions and higher wages. At the last year’s May rally the chief of the German Trade Union Federation (DGB) Michael Sommer even said that they want to reach the goal of full employment. Today many workers are happy, if there is still work. The dream of full employment has burst.
In the first three months of this year, approximately 50.000 companies registered 1,7 million workers for short-time work. This happened never before in history. Last year we just had 60.000 short-time workers. Even Daimler, Continental or BASF, Germany’s flagship companies have many days a week in the production halls and office corridors yawning void. No contracts, no work.
The state has billions of aid scheduled to avoid a gigantic army of disaffected unemployed during the anticipated six percent shrinking of the economy. The government is assisting the short-time work by several measures. Since the beginning of the year the government supports the short-time up to 18 instead of 6 months. The short-time allowance replaces a part of the salary, if their employees for cyclical reasons have to work less. Furthermore the State carries over the employer’s social security contributions, or even complete, if the employees keep qualifying during the short-time work.
The costs of these measures are enormous: The State spent just in March 173 million euros, three times more than in February. In the last month 58 million euros, in January only 28 million euros. For 2009, the “Bundesagentur für Arbeit” (Federal Agency for Employment) scheduled in total 2.1 billion euros for the promotion of short-time.
The 1st of May is a holiday. All employees who still work full-time, can enjoy a four-day week. This year, they will perhaps look forward to work five days afterwards.