Salary accord a ‘burden’, says Sorger

Federation of Industries (IV) chief Veit Sorger has warned that yesterday’s (Tues) metal industry salary negotiations agreement would “intensify the pressure on companies to rationalise.”

Sorger is quoted by the Kurier as saying that the agreement – under which the 165,000 workers will get 4.2 per cent more from November – was a “great burden” for enterprises of the sector. Federal Economy Chamber (WKO) President Christoph Leitl called the agreement “acceptable”.

Unionist Rainer Wimmer said the increase would have been less strong had not tens of thousands of workers participated in strikes last week. Wimmer said at the end of yesterday’s 14-hour discussion with representatives of the metal industry that the staff summits and strikes “proved employees’ determination.” Christoph Hinteregger, who headed the industry’s team of salary negotiators, replied: “We could have really done without that.”

Yesterday’s agreement also features one-off payments to staff and special arrangements for companies which struggled in the past months and years. These firms may be allowed to freeze wages despite the accord reached by representatives of the sector and labour unions PRO-GE and GPA. Erich Foglar, who heads the Federal Trade Union (ÖGB), welcomes the decisions. Foglar said he was especially pleased to hear that the metal industries’ low salaries would be increased more than top-tier earnings.

Sorger’s criticism of the accord between labour unionists and the metal industry about income increases comes just weeks after he accused that state of “having done nothing” in the past two years. Sorger claimed earlier this month that the government coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and People’s Party (ÖVP) should have used the past two years of prosperity to restore the Republic of Austria’s finances. The IV chief said the country was getting closer to a state debt resembling 80 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP). He called such a figure an “alarm signal”. Austria’s debts – more than 200 billion Euros – were as much as 74 per cent of the country’s GDP last month, according to the European Commission (EC).

The president of the IV said the SPÖ-ÖVP coalition should consider Sweden as a role model considering budget policies. He emphasised that the Scandinavian country introduced a debt brake and managed a significant reduction of state debts in the past years. Nearly eight out of 10 (77 per cent) of Austrian businesspeople in leading positions would appreciate the implementation of a debt brake in the country, newspaper Die Presse reports.

Sorger made clear that the IV opposed any kind of new tax and economic stimulus programmes “as long as the country has not done its homework” considering the state budget. He branded re-education courses offered by the Labour Market service (AMS) in cooperation with the labour ministry as “pointless”. SPÖ Labour Minister Rudolf Hundstorfer is a staunch supporter of the projects. The minister has referred to surveys showing that many participants found a new job.

Sorger appealed to the federal coalition to reform the pension system. He also put SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann’s call for a tax on financial transactions into question. Such a taxation measure – which also has support in the ÖVP – should affect at least the G20, the 20 strongest federal economies in the world, Sorger said.

Only last month, the IV boss warned of a growing number of countries which outdo Austria’s economy. Sorger referred to the latest IMF World Competitiveness Yearbook (WCY). Established by the International Institute for Management Development based in the Swiss city of Lausanne, the WCY listed Austria in 18th place among 59 investigated states. Austria came 14th in 2010. Hong Kong topped the WCY 2011. The United States came second.