Rhetorical Skirmish

Labor, Employer Discord Mounts

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Andrea Nahles and Ingo Kramer don't have the best relations these days.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    A controversy has emerged over whether employers could have prevented new regulations that they now publicly criticize as excessive and senseless.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • The cabinet and Bundesrat weighed health and safety rules in October.
    • A rule would require employers to monitor lighting at home offices.
    • Ingo Kramer heads the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

Two months ago, Ingo Kramer, the president of Germany’s employers association, and Andrea Nahles, the minister of labor, were still on the same page – at least in public. Together with labor unions, they put their stamp on the “partnership for skilled labor” initiative.

Since the beginning of 2015, however, relations have soured over the country’s new minimum wage, which employers call a “bureaucratic monster.” On top of that, German industry objects to plans to regulate temporary employment and service contracts and introduce new workplace rules.

At a New Year’s reception, Mr. Kramer ridiculed Ms. Nahles and took a shot at what he considers unreasonable interference by the German government. “It feels like we’re in ‘Absurdistan’,” he said, firing off a letter of protest to the labor ministry.

Ever since, sources say, the relationship has been poisoned.

In a reply letter to Mr. Kramer, the minister wrote that she could “not help but be appalled” at the criticism.

“I consider it an attack on my person and on the colleagues of my ministry who work with deep commitment and extensive expertise,” wrote Ms. Nahles, a member of the center-left Social Democratic Party, which is the minority coalition partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government.

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