Berlin The major strike announced by the trade unions on Monday is expected to lead to significant traffic disruptions in Germany. However, the economic damage should be limited. The chief economist at Commerzbank, Jörg Krämer, estimates the direct costs of canceled flights, canceled rail connections or blocked ports at a maximum of 181 million euros.
That would only be around 0.006 percent of the annual added value of the German economy. “From an economic point of view, the immediate economic damage is small,” Kramer told the Handelsblatt.
The trade unions Verdi and EVG have called for an all-day warning strike for Monday in view of what they see as insufficient progress in the collective bargaining rounds for the federal and local governments, at Deutsche Bahn and other transport companies as well as for parts of the airport staff. Flight operations will be suspended in Frankfurt, Munich and Hamburg, and rail traffic will also be largely canceled. In addition, motorways are also affected, for example, tunnel monitoring employees in Germany were called on to stop their work. Therefore, these could be blocked. Ports are also affected by the strikes.
For his calculation, Commerzbank economist Krämer used the annual gross value added in the areas of “land transport and transport in long-distance pipelines”, “shipping” and “air traffic” and came up with 66 billion euros. The numbers are from 2019, more recent data has been consumed by the corona pandemic.
Calculated on the day, that’s 181 million euros. “However, these will not be completely eliminated on Monday, since taxis and trucks, for example, will continue to drive,” explained Krämer. But even if one assumes a complete failure, the effect is small compared to the overall economic output.
Damage to the image of the business location
Krämer only describes the direct costs of the lost traffic. Consequential effects are not included. However, the economist considers them to be small anyway: “Economically, the losses are likely to be limited to the transport industry because the factories will continue to operate and many employees will work from home.”
Public transport threatens to collapse on Monday
However, the economist warns of economic consequences that are not so easy to quantify. He fears that the strike will damage the image of Germany as a business location. “We don’t need French conditions.”
The Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (BDA) also considers the announced coordinated industrial action to be completely excessive: “Anyone who acts like this is acting disproportionately and endangers acceptance of the right to strike,” said Managing Director Steffen Kampeter of the German Press Agency.
Kampeter warned that the fight for members should not radicalize collective bargaining autonomy in Germany. “A look at France shows where it leads when you go down the incline.” General strikes for political goals, as is currently the case in France, would not be permitted in Germany, however. Because the right to strike only permits labor disputes when it comes to goals that can be regulated by collective agreements.
>> Read here: Rail customers will soon have to expect new warning strikes
Even if everyone is now talking about mega or super strikes, one should not forget that Germany is a country with fewer strikes in international comparison, writes Thorsten Schulten, head of the WSI collective bargaining archive of the Hans Böckler Foundation, which is close to the trade unions, on Twitter.
In the strike ranking list from the WSI collective bargaining archive, Germany is only in the middle. In Germany, between 2011 and 2020, an average of 18 working days per 1,000 employees were lost due to labor disputes. In Belgium and France there were more than 90 each.
Wissing is considering implementing a Sunday driving ban on trucks
Hagen Lesch from the institute of the German economy (IW), which is close to employers, states in his latest report on collective bargaining that the collective bargaining last year was much more harmonious and less conflict-intensive than the year before – despite high-profile strikes such as in the pilots, the banks or in the metal and electrical industry.
The announced warning strike on Monday can also have such an effect because several collective bargaining negotiations are taking place at the same time, all of which also affect the transport sector.
In order to keep the economic consequences as small as possible, Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) wants to waive the truck driving ban next Sunday and at the same time allow night flights. “In order to keep the supply chains as stable as possible and not to endanger the supply, I asked the responsible countries to refrain from checking the Sunday driving ban for trucks,” Wissing told the “Bild” newspaper.
State aviation authorities and airports are required to allow delayed landings and departures so that stranded passengers can reach their destination. The President of the Federal Association of Road Haulage, Logistics and Disposal (BGL), Dirk Engelhardt, had previously warned of a “supply chaos” if the motorways were also to be affected by the strikes as planned.
In contrast, the general manager of the retail association HDE, Stefan Genth, was more relaxed. Compared to the difficult supply situation at the beginning of the corona pandemic, the one-day strike is a “manageable challenge”.
Is the labor dispute getting worse?
However, it cannot be ruled out that the labor dispute will intensify further if the third round of negotiations in the public sector does not result in an agreement. It runs from Monday to Wednesday. If a strike lasts for several days and also includes the closure of tunnels, massive economic damage can be expected, said Commerzbank chief economist Krämer.
Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said on Friday in Berlin that they did not want to get involved in the collective bargaining disputes. However, the goal must be a viable solution so that the effects of the strike on Monday do not become too bad for the citizens.
Read more about the ongoing collective bargaining here
Transport Minister Wissing emphasized that the federal and state governments were doing “everything to keep the impact of the strike on the population as low as possible”. At the same time, the FDP politician appealed to the collective bargaining partners to do everything possible to avoid traffic chaos. “The collective bargaining conflict in the public sector should not be at the expense of the population.”
More: The concerted strike action is legal but not legitimate