Cleaners’ minimum wage increases

9th of March 2020 Article by Katja Scholz
Cleaners’ minimum wage increases

At the beginning of this year almost 700,000 employees in Germany’s largest trade employer enjoyed a further wage increase. On January 1 the third phase of the increase agreed by the contract cleaners’ association (BIV) and the trade union for construction industry workers BAU came into force for all wage groups in the contract cleaning industry.

“Our entry level wages put us around 15 per cent above the general legal minimum wage in Germany,” explains BIV’s Christopher Luck. In wage group 1, the generally binding minimum wage for the sector is now €10.80 in the West and €10.55 in East Germany. The now almost 2,000 trainees in the contract cleaning industry are also profiting from the wage increase. Depending on their year of apprenticeship, trainees in West Germany  earn between €775 and €1,050 per month and those in the eastern part of the country between €730 and €1,005 per month.

“For more than 10 years now, we have had collectively agreed minimum wages in accordance with the German Employee Assignment Law. That puts us well above the general legal minimum wage currently in force. The work in our industry is of enormous importance and demands a fair remuneration. Increasing wages are also an important factor in attracting young new recruits into the industry,” adds Luck.

It’s about time: the contract cleaning industry is among the first sectors in Germany to align wages and apprenticeship pay in the east and west sides of the country. From December 1 this year, a nationally uniform sector minimum wage of €10.80 will come into force. From December onwards, apprentices will also receive the same pay.

“The different wage levels owe their existence to the history of our country”, explains Luck.  “The alignment this year of wages between east and west  represents a major feat for east German companies. With wage increases of almost 20 per cent over the period 2018 to 2020, these companies are to some extent fast approaching their pain threshold.”

The BIV has also been looking at what else needs to be done in the industry. Almost a third of the employees in the contract cleaning industry are so-called “mini-job” workers: they work in small-scale employment not subject to compulsory social insurance and must therefore not exceed a monthly income of €450. And this is exactly where the problem lies:  this rigid limit has been in force for the last seven years.

“In spite of general upward wage trends and the increasing cost of living, our mini-job workers are not allowed to work more hours - on the contrary, their working hours are actually getting shorter as the hourly wage rises. This situation is quite clearly absurd, both for the companies - for whom mini-jobs are the most expensive form of employment - and for the employees”, says Christopher Luck.

The BIV is thus calling on policy makers to make a timely decision and sees two possible solutions to the problem.

The first would be to abolish mini-jobs throughout industry nationwide and to make compulsory social insurance payable by all employees from their first Euro of earnings. A second would be to make a single or incremental increase in the €450 limit and thus allow mini-job workers to take on more hours of work.

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