New state minimum wage in bremen: a step towards twelve euros

The state minimum wage in Bremen is to rise to 11.13 euros from July. This will also benefit student assistants and employees in the secondary labor market.

From now on, student assistants in Bremen will receive two euros more per hour Photo: dpa

The red-green coalition in Bremen has agreed to increase the state minimum wage to 11.13 euros gross per hour. The amount is thus significantly higher than the federal minimum wage of currently 9.19 euros. The new regulation is to apply from July – provided that Bremen’s parliament passes an emergency motion to this effect before the parliamentary elections in May. In fact, there are limits to a minimum wage at the state level: It does not apply generally, but only within the state’s sphere of influence, i.e. in public companies, but also in the awarding and receipt of grants.

Among those who would benefit in Bremen are employees of public institutions who previously did not receive a collectively agreed wage, but only the federal minimum wage. These include around 3,000 student assistants at the university, who would henceforth earn just under two euros per hour more. The new state minimum wage also affects employees in the second labor market: 11.13 euros per hour will then also be paid to those whose employment is subsidized – provided these subsidies come from state funds. In Bremen, for example, this includes the 500 jobs in the "Lazlo" program, with which the state government has wanted to offer the long-term unemployed a perspective since 2018.

According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the situation is not yet clear for baggage handling employees working at a subsidiary of Bremen Airport. Although the company is owned by the city, too large a wage increase could overburden the subsidiary economically, explained Tim Cordben, spokesman for the economics department. The state, on the other hand, would have to overcome legal hurdles.

The state minimum wage will not automatically apply to the low-wage employees in the high-bay warehouse of Bremer Lagerhaus-Gesellschaft AG. The municipality holds more than 50 percent of the shares in this company, but according to Cordben, the minimum wage of a majority shareholder would not apply to a stock corporation.

Ingo SchierenbeckArbeitnehmerkammer Bremen

"The fact that only 20 percent of companies in the state of Bremen still pay according to collective agreements is the real problem"

In 2012, Bremen was the first German state to introduce a state minimum wage. Three years later, the grand coalition in Berlin decided to introduce a wage floor nationwide. This had overtaken the previous Bremen minimum wage of 8.84 euros. The red-green senate had therefore – despite criticism from the unions – de facto suspended its own regulation in 2016.

Raising it now is also a political signal. A draft of the coalition motion states that the "goal is to set the minimum wage at a level that enables single full-time employees to cover their living costs without state subsidies." And: Even at retirement age, people should not have to supplement their income after receiving the minimum wage.

A living wage floor would also be their wish for the federal minimum wage, explained Sybille Boschen, labor policy spokeswoman for the SPD. However: "What the federal government has agreed to is not adequate. That’s why we have to follow up with an independent regulation that will hopefully put pressure on the kettle." The target is a minimum wage of twelve euros, he said.

Rare collectively agreed wages

The increase is welcomed, among others, by the Left Party and the Chamber of Employees. The latter had presented figures last week: For a pension above the basic security, a minimum wage of 12.80 euros would be necessary – even with an unbroken employment biography of 45 contribution years in full-time.

"Already today in the state of Bremen, the pension is not enough for 15,500 older people and those with reduced earning capacity," explained Ingo Schierenbeck, chief executive of the Chamber of Employees. Some 16,000 workers, he said, are "poor despite work" and in some cases receive supplementary social benefits as single full-time employees. Beyond the increase, Schierenbeck explained, "Good wages are not minimum wages, but collectively agreed wages. The fact that only 20 percent of companies in the state of Bremen still pay according to collective agreements is the real problem."

The new amount of the state minimum wage now initially corresponds to the lowest wage level of the collective agreement for the public service of the federal states, which was recently newly agreed at the beginning of March. A separate commission made up of employee and employer representatives is to discuss a future increase and make recommendations. The final decision will be made by the Senate.

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