German chem union boss concerned over new Merkel government

30 September 2009 17:34  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS news)--The boss of Germany’s chemicals and energy union IG BCE is worried about the strong role the pro-business Free Democratic party will have in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s new government, he said on Wednesday.

The Free Democrats won 93 seats, up from 61 seats in 2005, in Sunday’s federal election and are expected to form a new coalition government with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, replacing Merkel’s previous partner, the Social Democrats.

“The Free Democrats plans to roll back many of the social advances we achieved in past years,” Hubertus Schmoldt, head of 700,000-member IG BCE, said in a webcast interview with state media group NDR.

The party’s plans posed a threat to workers' protection, collective bargaining and workers' rights on boards, as well as pensions and health insurance, he said, warning of a “dismantling” of Germany’s social consensus.

The Free Democrats are resisting tax hikes, and even advocate tax cuts for companies, despite the high government debt - which they want reduced - raising the spectre of cuts in spending on social security as the only option, Schmoldt said.

He called the Free Democrats a "neo-liberal" party and said that a coaliton that included them was the “worst alternative” for Germany.

But IG BCE would seek to work with new government, even though the Social Democrats, which won 146 seats, down from 222 after the 2005 election, would remain his union’s primary partner in the new legislature, Schmoldt said. 

However, he would not rule out that IG BCE could inch closer to the leftist Linke party (76 seats, up from 54 seats) and the Greens (68 seats, up from 51) on certain issues.

While Schmoldt has been outspoken in his opposition to the Free Democrats, IG BCE had not issued an official recommendation or endorsement to workers before the election on who to vote for.

Schmoldt is due to be succeeded by Michael Vassiliadis later this year.

Meanwhile, Germany's chemicals producers are looking to the new government to reduce taxes for companies, with producers association VCI pushing hard for a 10% tax credit for research and development spending.

According to the latest preliminary results, a coalition between the Christian Democrats (239 seats) and the Free Democrats will hold a slight majority of in the 622-seat parliament (Bundestag), even if there are seat adjustments due to Germany’s complicated election system which combines proportional representation with direct mandates.

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By: Stefan Baumgarten
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