(27 October) After intensive negotiations over the weekend, public services union ver.di has negotiated a new collective agreement covering 2.3 million workers in municipal and federal government with specific measures benefiting employees in health and social care. This coincides with EPSU's week of action for health and care staff calling for higher pay, more jobs and quality care.
Ver.di is clear that the successfuly outcome depended on mobilising workers across the country in a campaign of demonstrations and warning strikes that provided support for the trade union negotiators and made clear to employers the strength of feeling among public service employees.
The agreement came after the third round of negotiations with the employers pushing for a long-term deal (up to 2023) and annual pay increases of only 1%, In the end, ver.di was able to secure what it describes as a respectable deal that delivers a 1.4% pay rise for all workers on 1 April 2021 with a further 1.8% increase in April 2022. The agreement runs until 21 December 2022.
However, ver.di was concerned to provide additional benefits for the lower paid and for workers in health and care. The pay increase in 2021 is backed with a 50 Euro a month minimum which means that the lowest paid workers will see pay increase by 2.59%. Meanwhile, nursing staff will get 70 Euros a month additional payment from March 2021, rising to 120 Euros in 2022.
Other payments for health and care workers include an increase in the intensive care allowance from 46.02 Euro to 100 Euro and a 45 Euro increase in the shift allowance taking it to 155 Euro. Care staff working in institutions like homes for the elderly will get a 25 Euro-a-month allowance while doctors are set to get an additional 300 Euro from March 2021.
There will be a COVID-19 bonus payment for this year of 600 Euro for the lower pay groups (1-8), 400 Euro for middle earners (9-12) and 300 Euro for the top of the pay scale (13-15).
Workers in the East will see their weekly working time reduced by 30 minutes in 2022 and by a further 30 minues on 1 January 2023 finally bringing them in line with workers in Western regions. There is a similar change for hospital worker but with an extra 30-minute reduction in 2025 to bring them in line with the 38.5-hour week in the West.
Getting a better deal for health and care workers across Europe
The deal in Germany is the latest in a series of agreements that have delivered increases in pay and benefits and other measures to support workers in health and social care. All these came about as a result of strong and effective collective bargaining and often following months of actions, demonstrations and strikes, clearly showing it pays to be in the union.
In July a 1 billion-Euro package was agreed in Belgium to cover a new pay system and increases of 5%-6% along with several other provisions on working time, training, additional staff and more permanent contracts.
In France in the same month, the so-called "Ségur de la santé" package was announced, delivering pay increases totalling 183 Euro to health workers by March 2021 and commitments to create 8000 extra jobs and fill 7500 vacancies. However, the deal received a mixed reaction from trade unions who have a number of concerns relating to the coverage of the agreement and the urgent need for action on jobs and working time. Strikes and protests have been taking place to secure further improvements.
Meanwhile, over the past four months health and care unions have managed to negotiate new agreements covering pay and/or jobs in Bulgaria, Norway, Ireland, Austria (Vienna and Upper Austria) and the Czech Republic, including deals in the private sector in Germany and Italy.