Enlargement, Integration and Reform
Edited by Peter Leisink, Bram Stejin and Ulke Veersma
Chapter 9: The End of an Era: Structural Changes in German Public Sector Collective Bargaining
Heiner Dribbusch and Thorsten Schulten INTRODUCTION Since the mid-1990s, industrial relations in Germany have shown strong tendencies towards decentralization and fragmentation of collective bargaining (Bispinck and Schulten 2003). At first sight collective bargaining in the public sector seems to have been an important exception to this development, showing a considerable degree of stability and continuity. Until 2005 there existed a rather centralized system, with national collective agreements covering all public service employees at federal, federal states and local level. This collective bargaining system centred around the idea of equal standards of pay and working conditions for all employees in the public sector. It was accompanied by an established culture of social partnership and an overall non-adversarial bargaining culture illustrated by the fact that there have been only two national strikes in the public sector since 1949. As in other European countries, however, the German public sector has been confronted with various challenges, such as increasing budget restraints, privatization and liberalization of public services or the introduction of New Public Management concepts. Enforced by the completion of the European Single Market, during the 1990s neo-liberal policies were successful in giving the public sector the reputation of being inefficient and out of fashion. Consequently, the mainstream policies have called for a ‘modernization’ of public services, which basically meant to make them function as private companies either by privatization or by internal restructuring. Until today there has been comparatively little research into the consequences of these developments on labour relations and collective bargaining...
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