"Germany is a strong, innovative automotive location. If we are to remain viable for the future, we will need the politicians to put stable and reliable framework conditions in place, and secure, skilled jobs.” This was the message from Berthold Huber, President of the German trade union IG Metall, and Matthias Wissmann, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), as they opened the IAA symposium arranged jointly by the two organisations. The event entitled “The future of automobile production in Germany” took place at IG Metall’s main office in Frankfurt on 11 September 2013 in the presence of numerous high-ranking guests from business and the union.
Huber and Wissmann emphasised:
“IG Metall and the VDA regard uniting ecology and economy as one of the greatest challenges for Germany as an innovation location. This will be possible only if the Government and businesses invest extensively in the infrastructure and education.” The two presidents said they expected the EU to come up with an intelligent and flexible CO2 Regulation. “Brussels, too, must recognise that the point is to find a balance between ecology and economy – and make the industrial-policy preparations for Germany as an automotive location. Around 60 per cent of jobs at the car manufacturers alone depend on the premium segment. They must not be endangered by an exaggerated CO2 Regulation,” Wissmann explained.
Huber and Wissmann stressed the importance of super credits for cars with especially low CO2 values, which would be offset against the fleet value. These super credits represented an important lever. China was applying a factor of five, while in the USA at least a factor of two was being used. The European Commission’s proposal had so far remained a long way below this. Furthermore, simple continuation of the reduction targets beyond the year 2020 would not make sense in the short term. Huber and Wissmann said that European politicians should not make any statements about this until concrete experience was available regarding the success of alternative drive train technologies on the market.
They went on to explain that the global automotive market was expanding, but demand on the Western European passenger car market was currently well below its long-term average. This year, 40 per cent of all passenger cars would be sold in Asia – while Europe would account for less than 20 per cent. This development leads to the question of strategic decisions for the long-term securing of production and employment in Germany as an automotive location.
“Employees and employers have benefited together from the smart collective bargaining policy during recent years. At present Germany is still in a good position,” the VDA president said. The internationalisation of the industry in particular had safeguarded jobs within Germany. Employment in the automotive industry had in fact risen slightly during recent years. However, Germany could not sit back and relax by any means, but had to redouble its common efforts in the fields of politics, business and trade unions in order to actively continue the successful German model of the automotive industry over the coming decade, the VDA president explained. He added that this concerned cooperation by manufacturers and suppliers in the value-added chain, cooperation with the employers and trade unions, and the interaction with politicians. New competitors and intensive international competition made it essential for Germany to continue working on its competitiveness. Wissmann expected the future German Federal Government not to worsen the conditions for the country as a location. “We need the right investment climate so that innovations will continue to come from Germany. The most important aspect here, unlike when you’re driving, is ‘take your hands off the steering wheel!’” New tax burdens would be disastrous for small and medium-sized firms and their workforce, he said.
“The German automotive industry’s largest competitive advantage is its well qualified employees. They deserve secure and fair jobs,” the IG Metall president stated. Markets and products were changing all the time, he continued, and in some cases domestic value-added was facing huge challenges, which demanded a common strategy from the employers and the unions. IG Metall was appealing for the specific application of instruments for internal flexibilisation, especially working time accounts. What was needed now was elaboration of the next steps and development of new models, together with the employers. “We put the focus on people. Even those who are one hundred per cent behind their job and their products must be able to combine a family with going to work,” Huber said. He clearly rejected low wages, mini-jobs, limited contracts, and the misuse of agency workers and contracts for services/labour. In recent years, he explained, politicians in particular had neglected legal framework conditions for good work. “However, over the long term wage dumping and insecure jobs damage Germany’s excellence as a premium automobile location,” said Huber. Employers and unions had to continue the successful model of secure and fair jobs in the automotive industry. “The employers and the unions are jointly backing Germany,” he added.
The following panel discussion involving not only Wissmann and Huber, but also Prof. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management at Volkswagen AG, Franz Fehrenbach, Chairman of the Supervisory Board at Robert Bosch GmbH, and Erich Klemm, chairman of the General Works Council at Daimler AG, addressed in detail the issue of which strategic decisions are necessary to permanently safeguard production and employment in Germany.