Germany: HRDs emphasize the advantages of partial unemployment

par Planet Labor - 18 Février 2009

In a statement entitled "Master the crisis - sustain employment", the HRDs of 27 companies, including Audi, BASF, Daimler, Eon, MAN, RWE, Siemens, Bosch but also family businesses such as Dragerwerk and Trumpf, pledged on January 16, 2009 to conduct "a responsible personnel management policy" in confronting the crisis. They urged firms not to privilege a short-term policy by making harsh lay-offs in order to adjust production capacity, but to take advantage of all existing personnel management tools to keep their employees. 

According to Professor Gerold Frick, director of the German human resources management association (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Personalführung or DGFP), whose members signed the statement, the idea of this initiative emerged last November at an HRD meeting on how to face the crisis. "We expressed concern that firms may repeat the mistakes made during previous crises by laying off too many workers too quickly before having exploited all measures for flexible working time. We wanted to send a strong signal", confirmed Mr. Frick to Planet Labor. Indeed, HRDs say that the stakes are high. Firms which lay off skilled employees today to improve their short-term financial situation will not have the people they need for economic recovery to ensure their success and development. They gave the following warning: "A measure which seems justified in the short term may prove prejudicial to the company in the long term".

A call to preserve the future

"It is also a cultural issue. No firm can imagine selling its machines to react to a drop in sales while considering its workforce as an adjustment variable", criticized Mr. Frick, adding "we call upon firms to conduct a strategic personnel management policy oriented toward the long term". In his opinion, firms should, on the one hand, fully exploit all available flexibility measures to avoid lay-offs such as time savings accounts, reduction of work time, partial unemployment... On the other hand, they should identify groups of skilled employees strategic for their future and take care not to loose them. According to Günther Fleig, HRD at Daimler and signatory of the statement, this attitude is all the more important as economic lay-offs may prove particularly costly to firms over time. Indeed, each laid-off worker may take legal action. Furthermore, social plans with high severance costs weigh heavily on corporate finances.

Requests for further improvements of the partial unemployment plan

While welcoming the measures adopted by the federal government to make partial unemployment measures more attractive, the DGFP association calls for further improvements on the ground that firms applying to federal agencies for partial unemployment authorizations have to follow a "very heavy administrative procedure". Another complaint is that a firm may benefit from these measures only if it has exhausted all work-time saving possibilities for its employees. "In practice, this condition proves difficult to satisfy", pointed out Mr. Frick, assuring that the federal Minister of Employment may be ready to provide some accommodation on this issue.

Planet Labor, January 23, 2009, No. 090076 - www.planetlabor.com

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Auteur(s) : Planet Labor

Mots clés : chômage partiel, crise, récession, licenciement, chômage, emploi, chômage technique