German shipbuilders and equipment makers hit back at critical report

Malcolm Latarche

Malcolm Latarche · 16 September 2019


Germany’s shipbuilding and marine equipment trade body the Association for shipbuilding and marine technology (VSM) has rejected criticism of some of its practices contained in a report by the wider trade body IG Metall Küste on shipbuilding.

The report had welcomed an increase in employment in Germany’s shipyards but criticised the practice of offering temporary employment contracts to workers.

Commenting on the report, VSM’s Chief Executive Dr. Reinhard Lüken, said "The number of employees in German shipyards have increased significantly in the past year. This reflects the successful strategy of German shipbuilding to re-establish itself through innovative technologies and processes in the high-end markets as a sought-after producer. We know that this success is largely based on highly trained professionals and are therefore heavily involved in education and training.

The competition for professionals and talented young people has intensified significantly in Germany. It is therefore particularly important that the shipbuilding industry is positively positioned. The criticism of IG Metall is so far very constructive and even counterproductive in terms of a positive public perception.

In order not to jeopardise our competitiveness in an already heavily distorted by unfair state intervention global market, it depends on the right framework. This includes flexible, reliable instruments of the labour market and sufficient scope for entrepreneurial responsibility. The division of labour is the basis for Germany's industrial success. Temporary work and service contracts are essential to maintain an operational and economically efficient production in Germany. "

To call temporary work unsafe and precarious ignores the reality: employees of temporary work agencies are a small but vital part of the shipbuilding industry. Temporary work offers a stepping stone to permanent employment and allows companies to absorb capacity fluctuations thus temporay work also secures permanent jobs.

Service contracts are indispensable due to increasing specialisation of a productive economy. They are the hallmark of the German economy and the basis of its strength for decades.

Lüken went on to say, “The German shipbuilding industry needs highly qualified young workers. Evidence of the future orientation and sense of responsibility of our businesses are the recognised high level of education and continuous training and high retention rate. Thus, all trainees were hired by the companies last year after training! Nevertheless, companies are struggling with declining candidate and graduate numbers. They have therefore increased their activities to recruitment dramatically. Maintaining maritime competence is a national task that should be coordinated across national borders and requires a trusting and constructive cooperation with the social partners. The agreed on the NMK education campaign was a joint initiative. Therefore, all the actors must contribute constructive.

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