Bosch and ZF Friedrichshafen agree with their workforce on shorter working hours. In this way, redundancies for operational reasons are to be avoided. Is that also a model for Daimler?

A fitter in the factory of the automotive supplier ZF Friedrichshafen

“Layoffs are off the table.” That is the message that a few days before the start of the summer vacation in Baden-Württemberg, several companies in the automotive industry – above all the two automotive suppliers ZF Friedrichshafen and Bosch. At Daimler, too, an agreement was still expected on Friday that the “Zusi” would remain in place; the promise that redundancies due to operational reasons are excluded until the end of 2029 – with correspondingly extensive consideration by the employees. Here the tone had recently become rougher, Group works council chief Michael Brecht had insisted on a deal this week. That didn’t quite succeed: the negotiations were interrupted on Friday evening, but things should continue at the beginning of the week.

There is a constant effort to avoid layoffs and to reduce personnel costs in other ways. This is necessary because the auto industry, which is already in a state of upheaval, is affected by a drastic decline in demand as a result of the corona pandemic and therefore has considerable excess capacities. The “collective agreement transformation”, which the automotive supplier ZF concluded, is already a model for this effort from the union’s point of view, to which others should orient themselves, as IG Metall district manager Roman Zitzelsberger said on Friday. He knows the supplier’s situation well because, as a union representative, he is a member of the supervisory boards of both ZF and Daimler.

The approximately 50,000 ZF employees in Germany can be certain that no locations will be closed by the end of 2022 and that their jobs will be secure thanks to the collective agreement. In return, the employees forego a special payment of 400 euros, which would actually be due in July. Depending on the order situation, ZF employees must also expect that they will work less and earn less if the order situation remains poor after the end of classic short-time work: ZF then has the option of reducing working hours by up to 20 percent through the collective bargaining agreement . In order to cushion the loss of income, ZF promises top-up amounts based on the classic short-time work model.

Labor Director Sabine Jaskula hopes that this endeavor to find socially acceptable solutions will be supported: “We appeal to politicians to make these additional amounts tax and contribution-free.” can be implemented at the individual locations. Meanwhile, the intention remains to cut up to 15,000 jobs in the group by the middle of the decade, half of them in Germany, as Jaskula said in a web conference with journalists. This means that every tenth position would be lost within five years, which will partly be achieved through fluctuation. In addition, the supplier has created a bundle of financial offers, from simple severance payments to partial retirement to incentives, sabbaticals and grants.

Meanwhile, Bosch has regulated the reduction of working hours for 35,000 employees in the greater Stuttgart area by the end of this year. The classic short-time work is continued in production where necessary. What is more important, however, is that in administration and sales as well as in research and development, the working hours of employees are directly shortened and income is reduced accordingly. This involves reductions of 10 percent for employees with employment contracts of more than 35 hours, with lower weekly working hours the reduction is reduced to 8.57 percent. “The measures will make a significant contribution to further containing the company’s costs in the tense economic situation,” said a statement by the group on the agreement. The group does not make public how badly Bosch is affected by the Corona crisis.