The coalition is fighting against abuses in the meat industry and severely restricting entrepreneurial freedom. Not only the opposition is appalled.
Dhe federal government is preparing a sensitive restriction on the division of labor with its new legislative proposal for more occupational health and safety in the meat industry – which can apparently soon affect other industries as well. This is suggested by the draft law by Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) under the name of the “Occupational Safety and Health Control Act”, which the Federal Cabinet intends to pass this Wednesday. In addition to a ban on the use of external personnel in the context of temporary work and work contracts, this also provides for a general ban on cooperation between companies in the form of “coordinated work processes”.
For the time being, the law will only apply to the meat industry. However, in addition to the slaughtering and cutting up of animals, it also covers the entire area of meat processing, which has not yet been the subject of discussion about frequent corona infections and poor working conditions in slaughterhouses.
On top of that, the draft law justifies the planned interventions not only with infection protection. Rather, he argues that works councils need “greater resources” to counter a weakening of democracy. This is achieved by “increasing the permanent workforce” – which can be achieved through a ban on temporary work, work contracts and corporate collaborations.
Strong accumulation of corona infections
This part of the justification, which is obviously not limited to a single industry, is based on the draft law on an article from 2014 entitled “Precarious Democracy?”. In it, two economic sociologists write about “three decades of neoliberal hegemony” and about “conflicting contradictions” between “economic (capitalist) and political (democratic) socialization”.
In the further course they find out that temporary workers are “second-class company citizens” and contract workers “are not company citizens at all”. “The influence of the company demos has been restructured and ultimately reduced,” says the article that the Federal Ministry of Labor cited to justify the proposed legislation by the Union and the SPD.
Its starting point was a strong accumulation of corona infections in several slaughterhouses, especially in the Tönnies meat company in Rheda-Wiedenbrück. That is why the government decided in May that it would ban temporary work and contract employment in the core area of slaughtering and cutting.
What is the CDU doing?
There seem to be different views in the Union as to what to think of the salvation scheme. In an interview with the FAZ, the deputy chairman of the Union parliamentary group Gitta Connemann warned against “breaking such a complex legislative project over the knee” – especially since it threatened “unforeseeable side effects for the rural area as a whole”. “We as a Union cannot just shake hands,” she said.
However, Economics Minister Peter Altmaier and Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner (both CDU) apparently did not raise any major objections before the cabinet decision. According to reports, the time for this was short due to short deadlines and the lack of cast due to the holidays.
The draft law initially regulates the prohibition of temporary work and work contracts, it says: The owner of a company “in the field of slaughter including the cutting of carcasses as well as in the field of meat processing” may allow employees to “only work within the framework of existing employment relationships” and also a self-employed.
Unexpected for experts, but there was more: An entrepreneur must always run a meat business as the “sole owner”. “The joint management of a company or an organization by two or more entrepreneurs is not permitted.”
What exactly does this do is still controversial: What kind of business relationship along the value chain from the farm fattening operation to the manufacturer of fine salami will still be permitted? Industry experts suspect that meat processing on a large scale will be so impossible and thus relocated to Spain or Romania.
“It is obvious that in the end this will also have a hard time affecting areas and companies that have nothing to do with corona infections and poor working conditions,” warns Connemann. “That is why the question here is whether, in the outrage over the Tönnies case, we really want to resolve such a sensitive restriction on the basis of value creation for many people in rural areas at such a pace.”
Up to 500,000 euros fine
However, the Federal Employers’ Association (BDA) assumes that the regulations against corporate cooperation are unconstitutional – because of “legal and factual indeterminacy”, as their statement, which is available to the FAZ, explains. “For reasons of the rule of law, a prohibition reinforced by penalties must clearly regulate what should not be permitted under which circumstances,” explains the BDA.
The bill does not do that. But he threatens to be fined up to 500,000 euros for violations.
The FDP is also appalled at the intention to restrict entrepreneurial self-organization by a “legally questionable definition of the term owner”, as its economic politician Carl-Julius Cronenberg emphasizes: “This first step towards state economic control does not help the employees concerned and ensures years of legal uncertainty” he told the FAZ
Cronenberg advocates finding ways to a collective agreement. Because this is the most suitable means for reliable and targeted regulations. But praise from the social partners and the autonomy of collective bargaining have “degenerated into pure Sunday speeches for the SPD and the Union,” he says.