Every tenth Hartz IV supplementary employee works in the public sector. Not Lidl and Co., but the state is the biggest wage printer in the country
The collective bargaining in the public service ended over the weekend without a really satisfactory result for the employees. 1.15% wage increase per year does not even compensate for inflation and is de facto a real wage cut. But many employees in the public sector were already satisfied, if they are employed at all under one of the collective agreements, which are based on the wages in the public sector.
The state is an employer with a three-class system: in the first place there are the civil servants, protected from dismissal, properly paid and with all the rights that an employee can have. In the second place, regular civil servants, who are often also employed by carriers with a private-law structure. Do they still have "Old contract", they usually also enjoy good protection against dismissal, but earnings are comparatively modest and they always face the prospect of falling into the lowest group in the pecking order of the civil service – these are the precarious employment relationships, usually only with a temporary contract, often with a temporary employment agency that prints down the wage level on behalf of the state, without any employee rights worth mentioning. Hire and fire and mini-wages in the name of the state.
Supplementary employees in the civil service
The figures given by the Ministry of Finance in response to a question from the Left Party’s parliamentary group in the Bundestag, which is also available to Telepolis, are bitter. In the public sector, 131.722 people are employed who receive such low wages that they have to draw additional benefits from Hartz IV. One in ten Hartz IV recipients is thus directly or indirectly employed in the public sector.
The number of full-time employees subject to social insurance contributions who have to claim supplementary benefits is even more dramatic. Of the total 424.915 full-time employees, whose wages are so low that they have to claim Hartz IV benefits on top of that, are 75.057 (18%) active in the public sector.
However, this is only an unreported figure; the number of low-wage workers in the service of the state is much higher, since not every low-wage worker is entitled to Hartz IV benefits. For example, if you live in a partnership where your partner earns a normal wage, you will not be eligible for the top-up payments.
Sunday talk versus reality
Many areas of the public sector are affected by wage dumping – especially those areas that are always presented as particularly important in the Sunday speeches of politicians. On the one hand, there is the health care sector. More and more registered nurses, who are already modestly paid, have been replaced in recent years by so-called nursing assistants – auxiliary staff with minimal training who are often employed through temporary employment agencies, on a temporary contract basis and at wages far below those of registered nurses, and who often have to be supplemented by the state with Hartz IV benefits. In many places, technical assistants are no longer covered by the coveted collective bargaining agreements of the public sector, but have to work on a precarious basis for temporary employment agencies that are often directly owned by the respective carrier. The famous "hard working nurse", the hard-working nursing assistant is of no interest to politicians, precarious forms of employment do not fit so well into the image of the quality-oriented healthcare system, and the idea of paying starvation wages, especially for nursing, does not fit into the image of the nice Sunday speeches either.
But it’s not just health care and elder care where the state systematically prints wages. The situation is even more dramatic in the education sector. Three quarters of all academic staff at universities are employed on a fixed-term basis, more than half of them in part-time positions. Even among lecturers, the situation is hardly better – three quarters of them work on a fee basis.
"Demanding and demanding", The state is cutting back on every conceivable aspect of the main component of demanding – the number of employees in the field of adult education is, according to data from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), only about one third of the total number of employees in the field of adult education.di by 30 percent in the past few years.000, while the remaining employees have seen their wages drop by 30% in recent years. Temporary work is on the rise in this area, and teachers’ wages are often only sufficient if they work for more than one educational institution. When politicians once again refer to education as our most important resource in their Sunday speeches, this sounds cynical at best to the ears of precarious employees in the education sector.
An example at the University of Dresden shows how the low wages in the non-scientific area of universities can be further undermined. Those who work for the university’s student union are paid just 7.92 euros per hour in the lower grade. But even this not exactly princely wage was still too high for the Dresdeners. The state is talking about a construct with the strange name of "adult education" "Student aid 1919 Ltd" they sorted out about a quarter of the employees. Today they get only 6.42 euros per hour, are temporary workers without rights and without a permanent job.
47 cents per hour
A temporary employment agency in Leipzig, which was commissioned by the city of Gera to organize winter services on public surfaces, achieved a sad record of minus 47 cents per hour. Two formerly unemployed people who were hired by the modern service provider came – according to the union’s calculation ver.di – summa summarum to an hourly wage of 47 cents per hour. This is, of course, nothing more than modern wage slavery, in which unscrupulous companies exploit distressed unemployed people.
In this case, however, the state not only looks on, it even explicitly enables this form of exploitation by awarding contracts. Of course, government agencies can set up contracts that force subcontractors to pay agreed minimum wages, and of course the government also has the power to control this. If it does not do both, then it is not acting negligently, but with intent – for a few euros saved in the awarding of contracts, the state accepts systematic wage dumping.
In no other Western European country are there as many low-wage workers as in Germany. It’s no longer just unskilled laborers who have to work for starvation wages – three quarters of low-wage workers have completed vocational training or have even studied. The low-wage sector in Germany is growing year by year, and wages in the low-wage sector continue to fall year by year.
Hunger wages are not only a problem of the justice. Of course, every employee who does his work properly is also entitled to a wage from which he can live. The money that low-wage earners lack, however, is also lacking for the domestic economy. People who earn a starvation wage do not hire a handyman, do not buy a new car and do not go out to eat, to the theater or to the movies, or do so only very rarely. Low wages are not only a problem for the direct victims, they cripple the entire economy. A state that spends billions on the scrappage scheme and spoils hoteliers with questionable tax giveaways does not have too little money to prevent wage dumping in its own house. A state that itself engages in wage dumping has in fact taken its moral oath of disclosure. The state, that is not the others, the state, that is us. Perhaps it is time to show the politicians what the decent people think of the state’s indecent personnel policy.