May 23, 2024

German trade union leaders on Wednesday called for social justice and reforms to the strict constitutional debt rule as the country marked International Workers’ Day.

May 1 is a national holiday in Germany, with unions traditionally organizing demonstrations for workers’ rights across the country.

Frank Werneke, the chairman of the powerful verdi trade union, demanded that Germany’s strict “debt brake,” which caps government borrowing, be reformed or suspended in favour of greater investment in public services and climate adaptation.

“Urgently needed investments in infrastructure, local and long-distance public transport, and education are no longer taking place or remain piecemeal,” Werneke said. “The debt brake is a brake on the future,” he added.

The trade union leader said that employers’ associations and politicians from Germany’s conservative and liberal parties were “outdoing each other with demands to dismantle the welfare state,” a strategy he called “playing with fire.”

Werneke argued spending on social services could provide a “successful firewall” against the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has been surging in polls.

The chairwoman of the IG Metall trade union, Christiane Benner, said investment was crucial to maintaining workers’ prosperity and warned against relocations and redundancy plans.

At a rally in the central city of Erfurt, Benner said companies’ “short-sighted downsizing plans” and lack of trust in employees were “a fatal signal for society.”

Companies must recognize German workers’ high levels of education and industrial skills, she stated. “Clear prospects secure prosperity, growth and democracy,” Benner added.

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