Contrary to all political promises: Employers are opposing the collective bargaining of student employees. Now it’s necessary for us to step up our pressure from the streets!
At the second negotiation meeting between our trade unions and the Tarifgemeinschaft deutscher Länder (TdL), the employers once again failed to present us with an offer. What’s more, contrary to all political promises, the employers have made it clear that they reject our demands and do not want to negotiate a collective agreement for the more than 300,000 student employees. This would mean that the largest collective bargaining gap in the public sector would continue to exist. Instead of accepting our good arguments, which were presented on the basis of the study “Young, Academic, Precarious” with over 11,000 participants, they prefer to talk about 11,000 individual cases. The latest statements from the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science fit in with this: “(The) working conditions fulfil all legal requirements. […] A general and structural deficit […] could […] not be determined”, which has now also been emphasised by the top negotiators of the TdL. Under the guise of academic freedom, payment at minimum wage level and precarious contract conditions are to continue – i.e. with short contract terms, chain contracts and wages that are even below the statutory minimum wage according to the TdL guideline. Now it takes all of us! We need to increase the pressure until the third round of negotiations on 7/8 December. As the employers do not want to budge, we have to push them and take strike action together.
Impressions from the negotiations
Coalition agreements are one thing. But we are not in parliament and we are not here as state governments.Monika Heinold (Bünsnis 90/Die Grünen), Second Deputy Chairperson of the TdL, Finance Minister of Schleswig-Holstein
The top negotiators of the Tarifgemeinschaft deutscher Länder (TdL) claim that they do not represent the states and that there is no required 3/5 majority within the employers’ association for a collective agreement for student employees.
The fact is that nine state governments, which are member of the employers’ association (Hesse is not), have promised us improvements or a collective agreement and that a collective agreement has existed in Berlin since 1980. Within the employers’ association, the score is therefore at least 10 to 5 in our favour!
We ask ourselves: What has to happen for the TdL to finally do what it claims to be there for, namely to negotiate collective agreements?
The employment relationship only complements education and is therefore not aproper working relationship. Regulations on minimum contract terms and minimum hours would restrict academic freedom.Dr Andreas Dressel (SPD), Chairperson of the TdL, Finance Senator of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg
Academic freedom is not secured by giving the employers the freedom to reign over our work as they please. Good and independent research is guaranteed by decent and secure employment conditions, not by existential fears or even poverty. Like all other employees in higher education, we must finally be covered by a collective agreement. Berlin is proof that such an agreement is possible. And in Berlin, even after decades with a collective agreement, all three universities have been awarded excellence status…
BAföG and parents should finance the studies, not the work at a university. Besides, it is actually an honour to be given the opportunity to work at a university.Hartmut Vorjohann (CDU), First Deputy Chairperson of the TdL, State Minister of Finance of Saxony
The TdL fails to recognise the reality of our everyday life as students. Two thirds have to work alongside their studies in order to make a living. Of these, 18 per cent work as student assistants at a university, 21 per cent at another institution – making the state the largest employer for students. Only 11 per cent of students receive BAföG (student grant/loan), very few of them get the maximum rate.
The salary from student employment is the most important source of income. Those who do not receive financial support from their parents often have to work several jobs.
What we need is more financial security and regular pay rises. This is what collective agreements are there for. But the TdL wants to continue paying us the minimum wage. This is a scandal, since as an employer, the state should actually be in favour of collective agreements and not in favour of circumventing them.
Voices from the TVStud negotiating committee
If Vorjohann thinks that student employees are not dependent on their wages, then he is denying the reality of our lives. Minimum wage is not enough to secure our livelihood! We finally need higher wages and collective agreements. There is only one answer to his blockade, and that is strike action!Charlotte Blücher (TVStud Saxony)
During the negotiations, the Finance Minister of Lower Saxony, Mr Heere (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen), among others, felt no longer bound to keep the promise of his coalition to support a TVStud. This is a slap to the face for all those who keep the universities running on a daily basis. Now more than ever: Together we will fight for a collective agreement!Nina Bartnitzek (TVStud Lower Saxony)
You can’t end precarity through unilateral guidelines that nobody adheres to, but only through good collective agreements. Everything the ministers of finance have to offer is a continuation of the precarious status quo. Now, pressure from the streets is the only thing that will make a difference!Mowa Techen (TVStud Thuringia)
During the negotiations, we were told again what Optendrenk’s Ministry of Finance told us months ago in direct dialogue: Coalition promises to cover student employees by a collective agreement are worth nothing. This is a scandal! If the members of the TdL do not abide by their own political decisions then the time for calm talks is over. Strike now!Leah Bersch (TVStud North Rhine-Westphalia)
You can also find these statements of the individual politicians and our answers compiled in a PDF file, available for download here [only in German].
What needs to happen now?
The employers are not moving. Now we have to move! Talk to your colleagues, inform them about the current state of negotiations and agree to meet again for the days of action and strike action.
Join us on:
- 20 November 2023 to the decentralised nationwide #University Action Day against precarious science.
- 21 November 2023 to the central student and trainee action days in Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Würzburg, Munich and other cities.
- Watch out for further announcements from your trade unions and TVStud initiatives.