Trade unions describe the negotiations with municipal employers as “tough”. An agreement would mean an improvement for around 330,000 employees. Is there a breakthrough now?

The decisive deliberations in the collective bargaining dispute about employees in social professions turned out to be difficult on Wednesday.

Between the representatives of the municipal employers, the Verdi trade union and the civil servants’ association dbb, there was still a great need for discussion until the evening, as was learned from the groups of participants. Originally, the deliberations were to be completed by 4 p.m. at the latest.

After two unsuccessful rounds of negotiations in February and March, the trade unions sat down again on Monday for what is likely to be the last round of negotiations with the municipal employers. On Tuesday afternoon, the talks were moved from Potsdam to Berlin for logistical reasons.

Threatened with strikes

Verdi had already threatened at the start of the negotiations with a “massive increase in strikes” in the event that no agreement was reached by this Wednesday. There had already been warning strikes in large parts of Germany in the past few weeks.

The aim of the unions is to achieve better wages and working conditions for the around 330,000 municipal daycare workers and other employees in social professions – especially with regard to classification and the daily workload.

The consultations have been “very difficult” so far, a Verdi spokesman told the German Press Agency on Wednesday afternoon. It was heard from employer circles that the demands were still too high. Verdi and the civil servants’ association dbb once again made it clear that the issue of reducing workload was a “sticking point”. This round is about more than just higher remuneration, it said. In the long term, the trade unions are aiming for more staff in municipal social and educational services and are demanding that employers compensate for staff shortages by providing employees with additional rest periods.

One of the negotiators, the President of the Association of Municipal Employers (VKA) Karin Welge, had emphasized at the start on Monday that employers were willing to compromise. However, she rejects blanket claims. “We cannot afford a general upgrade in the sense that each pay group gets more,” Welge said. “That would mean that we might have fewer people afterwards because the municipal budgets cannot bear the financial impact.” Especially with a view to the effects of the Ukraine war and higher energy prices, municipal employers should be able to offer “reliable structures”, explained the VKA President.