More applications than ever: Short-time worker wave in Germany


I.In view of the Corona crisis, more and more companies are sending thousands of employees on short-time work, including large industrial groups such as Volkswagen, Bosch, Continental, MAN, Thyssen-Krupp, Lufthansa, Puma, Adidas and Tui. Daimler also announced on Thursday that it would send most of its employees on short-time work, initially for a limited period until April 17. Most of the production and many administrative areas are affected. Only basic functions as well as future topics and strategic projects are excluded, according to the Stuttgart-based company.

Hanno Mussler

Tillmann Neuscheler

Short-time work is also being considered in the public sector. This could affect employees from airports, spas, theaters, local transport or museums. The Verdi union, the Association of Officials (DBB) and the association of local employers’ organizations have announced negotiations about this.

Even in the financial sector, short-time working is being considered, among them the industry leader Deutsche Bank, as a spokeswoman confirms. Deutsche Bank is not alone in this. You check “like other financial institutions whether and where that might make sense,” she says. The bank is preparing for such scenarios. As of today, however, there is no short-time working within Deutsche Bank.

That probably still applies to all banks in Germany. But even thinking about it is astonishing: So far there has been talk of a flood of work, inquiries that are just about to hit banks and savings banks, be it from commercial customers who want to find out about the new KFW loans that are processed by the house banks ; or from private customers who need advice on the deferral of loans or the fluctuating stock exchange.

“We need every employee,” says the spokesman for the German Sparkassenverband der F.A.Z. and adds: “We are not aware of any savings banks that are planning short-time work.” When branches are closed, work continues behind closed doors or in the home office. This fits: The Volks- und Raiffeisenbanks have temporarily agreed on Saturday work with unions in order to offer employees with children more flexible working hours.

Short-time work at record high

Banks, on the other hand, which at least examine short-time work, argue that the economic outlook is incalculable. Employees are currently busy, but the next few weeks are difficult to predict. In many bank headquarters in Frankfurt, however, many – possibly different from the branches that have in the meantime closed – have accumulated overtime, which they would first have to reduce before they can apply for short-time work benefits. Some banks seem to be clearly opposed to this.

“Applying for short-time work is currently not an issue for us,” says the spokesman for Commerzbank of F.A.Z. However, individual small Volksbanken and Raiffeisenbanks are considering the registration of short-time work allowance, even if none has applied for it, as the Federal Association of Volksbanken and Raiffeisenbanken emphasizes.

The Federal Employment Agency expects a total of more than 2 million short-time workers due to the crisis. Never that many before. In the past week alone, 76,700 companies had applied for short-time work, for comparison: in normal weeks there are fewer than 1000 companies.

Lufthansa boss Carsten Spohr

Because their employees have to forego part of their salary in times of short-time working, some top managers from industry have announced a waiver of wages, as the first Lufthansa boss Carsten Spohr. Now others have followed: The board of the sporting goods manufacturer Puma around Bjørn Gulden waives his full salary in April. Tui’s board of directors has announced that it will pay a 30 percent lower basic salary from April until further notice.

The management of the Douglas retail group has also announced that it will voluntarily forego part of the salary in the coming months. The top management of Daimler, Ceconomy and ZF Friedrichshafen have at least indicated a waiver, but the details have not yet been decided.

Puma boss Bjoern Gulden

“We will see such steps more often”, the Frankfurt compensation expert Michael Kramarsch from the HKP management consultancy suspects: “Anyone who demands sacrifices from their employees should also think about doing without them themselves”. That is a question of social cohesion. “Some companies voluntarily increase short-time work benefits,” explains Kramarsch, “so that employees earn hardly less than before. That is a different situation, but in which the state steps in anyway ”. Kramarsch expects that the remuneration of the top managers will decline sharply this year: “Most remuneration systems for manager salaries are designed in such a way that no bonuses are due in such a crisis as now”.

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