German labour union ver.di has told CPI that IBM staff across the country will go on a series of organised protests starting today, up until 24 October.
Ver.di is Germany's second-largest trade union. It claims to have over two million members.
Ver.di's Bert Stach, who is currently negotiating with IBM, says that Big Blue's 12,000 staff in Germany are asking for a 5.5 per cent pay rise; for all staff to be included in an IBM pension scheme; and for €1.8m to be allotted to increase IBM staff's health and safety.
On the final point, Stach said that the psychological wellbeing of IBM staff in Germany is currently being compromised.
"In Germany you have to evaluate the risks to staff, including psychological risks - and we do this every four years to make an agreement with a union or workers council," he said.
"What we found out, for example, is that IBM workers are working in virtual teams, where you never get to know who you're working with, and that this is a psychological risk.
"We're asking that when the company gets them together once a year for an IBM meeting, they shouldn't just talk about the company, they should have team building, where staff from different IBM locations can get to know each other in different cities."
In a union newsletter updating its members on the protests, a staff testimonial was included, which decried "excessive demands" from employers:
"Through the upheavals in the work processes [at IBM], cohesion is lost among ourselves. We are all becoming lone fighters," it said.
Stach confirmed that the "collective bargaining" talks with IBM started last Thursday, but that IBM pushed back on a payrise at the bargaining table.
"IBM didn't offer us anything. So now we're taking to the streets because of that," he said.
However, with inflation currently set at 1.7 per cent in Germany, and its economy beset by gloomy GDP growth projections, Stach said he accepts that workers are unlikely to win an increase as high as 5.5 per cent.
"They will probably start with one per cent. And we will ask for more. Of course, we do not expect that we will end up with 5.5 per cent. In the end it will be a compromise. Last year it was 2.3 per cent, but in order to get as good a compromise as possible, people are protesting."
Another point of contention is IBM pensions. Stach claims that all IBM Germany workers who joined the company after 2009 do not have an IBM pension.
"We are asking for this to change for the younger, newer members of the company," he said.
Today, IBM staff will protest at Böblingen, which is the R&D site for IBM in Germany. IBM sites in seven other cities will follow suit until 24 October.
Stach hopes that the union's demands are met before the end of the month, pointing to an approaching deadline for IBM's international salary scheme.
IBM Germany's deadline to submit any salary hikes for next year's budget to the US headquarters is mid-November.
Stach suggests that if both sides approach this deadline without a deal, "it will be a real problem".
"We may have to consider other ways to force IBM Germany, and then to also convince the headquarters in Armonk [New York]," he said.
"Look at the labour market in Germany now. If you want to get experts to work for IBM, you have to offer good conditions, because the labour market is close to being empty; there's nobody looking for jobs. There's no unemployment among IT professionals.
"I think they have the motivation to find a compromise with us."
IBM declined to comment on this story.
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