Posts Tagged ‘Germany’

Protesters from the Communist-affiliated trade union PAME shout slogans as they march towards the parliament during a general labour strike in Athens

Greek labor unions staged a nationwide strike today to protest against austerity policies imposed on the country by the current government and its foreign creditors, including Germany.

Schools and pharmacies were shut, ships remained docked at ports, hospitals operated on emergency staff, and transport in Athens was disrupted due to the 24-hour strike called by private sector union GSEE and its public sector counterpart ADEDY.

More than 20,000 workers, pensioners, students and the unemployed marched peacefully through the streets of the Greek capital chanting “EU, IMF take the bailout and get out of here!”

Unions said their anti-austerity message was also aimed at German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is due to meet Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in Athens on Friday. Germany has insisted on painful spending cuts and tax hikes in return for international loans.

“It’s time to save people not banks,” said 59-year old economist Eleni Prokou. “Merkel and the troika should stop sticking their nose in our business.”

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Amazon warehouse workers in Germany have walked off the job and, at the same time, have taken their case directly to the e-commerce giant’s Seattle headquarters.

German warehouse workers have been conducting brief walkouts since last spring in what were the first strikes against the company anywhere. Amazon said 1,115 workers did not show up Monday but that Christmas packages would still be delivered on time. The company employs about 23,000 full-time and seasonal workers in Germany.

On the surface, the dispute is about money. The German labor union Ver.di wants Amazon workers classified as retail employees, but Amazon says they are logistics workers who should be paid less.

Underneath this is a bigger question of whether the warehouse workers should have any control over their workplace. The employees, also known as “pickers,” assemble the orders. Amazon warehouses are marvels of engineering and efficiency, but picking is still hard physical labor. There is constant monitoring and little job security.

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Well, the results are in and, to paraphrase Chico Escuela, the current recovery been berry, berry good to corporate CEOs in the United States.

According to GMI Ratings’ 2013 CEO Pay Survey, CEO compensation has set a new record: for the first time ever, the ten highest-paid chief executives in the United States all received more than $100 million in compensation and two of them took home billion-dollar paychecks.

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The report also shows that the median increase in total realized compensation for S&P 500 CEOs was 19.65 percent (an increase even over last year, when they benefited from a 13.78-percent increase at the median).

While salary, bonuses, and perks remained relatively flat in the S&P 500, it was the profits made from the exercise of stock options and the vesting of restricted stock that represented the bulk of pay in the index. Examples include Michael D. White, third-year CEO of DIRECTV, who saw a realized compensation increase from $5.7 million in 2011 to $50.8 million in 2012. The increase occurred when Mr. White exercised more than one million stock options (worth $18 million) and saw more than a half million units of restricted stock vest (worth $26.8 million), all equity granted in a CEO Golden Hello. The company’s stock price has climbed about 80% over the past three years.

The average increase for the same group was 55.18 percent.

To make the appropriate comparison, consider the increase in hourly pay for workers (production and nonsupervisory) between December 2011 and December 2012. It amounted to 1.8 percent. The growing gap between those at the top and the rest meant that, in 2012, the CEO-to-worker-pay ratio in the United States rose to 354 to 1.*

Clearly, the current recovery has been very good for a tiny minority of executives, who are managing to leave everyone else behind.

 

*Again, for purposes of comparison, that ratio was 42:1 in 1982 and 281:1 just a decade ago. In terms of other countries, it was 89:1 in Sweden, 93:1 in Australia, and 147:1 in Germany in 2012.

September 23, 2013

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Is it just me or is everything that is happening right now in the United States an indication that we’re in the midst of a Second Gilded Age?

Like one billionaire’s cash purchase of a major newspaper, which is greeted as a sign of his vision rather than a rich person’s trophy, an alternative to “cars, yachts and private jets.” (Of course, German unions have a much better sense of what is to come for the Washington Post.)

Or the suggestion that the economic crisis of Detroit can be fixed by directing immigrant workers to move there—and only there. And, on top of that, it’s called an experiment in the free market?!

Immigration is an economic development policy that is currently largely ignored. A city like Detroit could be a symbol and demonstration project to show other cities the huge potential for this. If this works, it will mean more political demand for immigrants and ultimately raising our overall immigration levels, which is an important goal in and of itself. A regional visas should be created that let’s [sic] cities experiment and choose their own path in this way. It’s the only free market plan out there with any chance of making a serious impact in Detroit, and it’s consistent with America’s spirit of federalism. And unlike just about every other plan you see, like bailouts or tax cuts, this has the advantage that it doesn’t require other people’s money.

Or the fact that only now is attention being paid to a Bank of England study that showed that quantitative easing has disproportionately benefited those who are already well off.

Or, finally, that airlines are sparing no expense these days to upgrade the experience of first-class and business-class travelers and reducing everyone else to, well, cattle class.

The upgrading of business and the downgrading of coach present a fairly faithful mirror of what’s happening in the larger economy: the disappearance of the middle class. As University of California-Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez has documented, between 2009 and 2011, the incomes of the wealthiest 1 percent of American families grew by 11.2 percent while those of the remaining 99 percent shrunk by 0.4 percent. Median household income has declined every year since 2008. Profits, meanwhile, have risen to their highest share of the nation’s economy since World War II, while wages have sunk to their lowest share. In an economy such as this, the growing markets are the rich and corporations, which have more money to spend on luxury travel, and the downwardly mobile everyone else, whose travel options are increasingly confined to discount outfits like Spirit and the increasingly hellacious coach sections of other airlines.

Ah, only in America!

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Amazon’s German workers yesterday walked off the job in a one-day strike to demand higher wages.

The union is pushing the online retailer to adopt wage agreements similar to those governing retail and mail-order workers, which include Christmas bonuses and extra pay for working nights, Sundays and holidays. The agreements could mean as much as 9,000 euros ($11,700) more annually for Amazon workers.

Amazon says its distribution warehouses in Germany are logistics centers, and employees are already paid on the upper end of what workers in that industry earn.

Ver.di represents some 2,000 workers in Leipzig and 3,300 employees at Amazon’s Bad Hersfeld center. They staged a first strike earlier this month.

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Tens of thousands of workers from Germany’s engineering, metalworking, and electrical industries have downed their tools in a series of rolling strikes during the past week in order to press for a better pay package.

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According to a new report from the International Labor Organization, Global Wage Report 2012/13: Wages and Equitable Growth,

Between 1999 and 2011 average labour productivity in developed economies increased more than twice as much as average wages (see figure 11). In the United States, real hourly labour productivity in the non-farm business sector increased by about 85 per cent since 1980, while real hourly compensation increased by only around 35 per cent. In Germany, labour productivity surged by almost a quarter over the past two decades while real monthly wages remained flat.

The global trend has resulted in a change in the distribution of national income, with the workers’ share decreasing while capital income shares increase in a majority of countries. Even in China, a country where wages roughly tripled over the last decade, GDP increased at a faster rate than the total wage bill – and hence the labour share went down.