BERLIN/FRANKFURT (dpa-AFX) - Strikes are becoming increasingly likely on construction sites in Germany. The employers' associations of the construction industry and building trade have rejected the arbitrator's ruling issued two weeks ago, as they announced in Berlin on Friday. The Industrial Union for Construction, Agriculture and the Environment (IG BAU) immediately announced strikes in the sector, which employs around 930,000 people.

"There will now be strikes, and on a massive scale," explained the union's national chairman, Robert Feiger, in Frankfurt. Now "the concrete mixers will be turned off, the trowels put away and the excavators put in their parking positions" throughout Germany. Both large companies and small craft businesses will be on strike. Feiger did not initially give a date for the industrial action.

For its part, the trade union had accepted the arbitration ruling of the former President of the Federal Social Court, Rainer Schlegel. According to this, incomes were to increase by a flat rate of 250 euros in May and a further 4.15 percent in the west and 4.95 percent in the east eleven months later.

Feiger made it clear that the union no longer felt bound by the arbitrator's decision and would once again strike for its original demand of 500 euros more per month. Feiger said: "I guarantee that the rejection of the arbitrator's decision will backfire on the construction companies, because now it can only get more expensive."

Employers complain about shortcomings in the conciliation agreement

The employers' chief negotiator, Uwe Nostitz, complained about serious shortcomings in the arbitration award. Among other things, these would have led to individual training salaries in the first year of training being higher than in the second year. The "generally very high" arbitrator's award also disregards the current economic facts with falling real turnover.

Jutta Beeke, Vice President of the Federation of the Construction Industry, opposed a blanket increase in salaries by means of a fixed amount. She explained that the fixed amount would result in excessive increases in some wage groups and only relatively small increases in others: "We as employers cannot justify this."

Arbitration is contractually agreed between the parties to the collective agreement as soon as one side declares the negotiations to have failed. IG BAU did this after three rounds. Schlegel published his arbitration decision after negotiations in Wiesbaden on April 19. The employers' negotiating committee had already recommended rejection at that time.

IG BAU had originally demanded 500 euros more in wages, salaries and training allowances per month for a period of one year. The employers from the industry associations ZDB and HDB had offered two salary increases of 3.3 percent for this year and 3.2 percent for next year. They had referred to the crisis, particularly in residential construction, and accused the union of completely ignoring it.

The construction industry is one of the largest employers in Germany and an important pillar of the German economy with a turnover of around 162 billion euros in 2023, according to the construction industry association ZDB. The sector had supported the economy for years during the real estate boom, but has now become a problem child due to the crisis in residential construction./ceb/DP/mis