Strikes are becoming increasingly likely on construction sites in Germany. The employers’ associations in the construction industry and the construction industry have rejected the arbitrator’s decision made two weeks ago, as they announced on Friday in Berlin. In this case, the Bauen Agrar Umwelt industrial union (IG BAU) had announced industrial action in the industry with around 930,000 employees.

The union, for its part, accepted the arbitrator’s ruling from the former President of the Federal Social Court, Rainer Schlegel. After that, incomes should increase by a flat rate of 250 euros in May and eleven months later by another 4.15 percent in the west and 4.95 percent in the east.

In the meantime, IG-BAU boss Robert Feiger had made it clear that if the arbitration was rejected, the union would no longer feel bound to the recommendation. There will then be a strike again for the original demand of 500 euros more per month. On May 1st, Feiger called on his members: “Heat up your companies and mobilize all your colleagues. Let’s shut down the companies and construction sites if the construction companies don’t want it any other way.”

The employers’ negotiator, Uwe Nostitz, complained about serious deficiencies in the arbitrator’s decision. These would have led to individual training fees being higher in the first year of training than in the second year. Jutta Beeke, deputy in the main association of the construction industry, opposed an increase by a fixed amount. In some wage groups there are too high increases due to the fixed amount, in others there are only relatively small increases, she explained. “We as employers cannot be responsible for that.”

Arbitration is contractually agreed between the collective bargaining parties as soon as one side declares the negotiations to have failed. IG BAU did this after three rounds. Schlegel published his arbitrator’s decision after negotiations in Wiesbaden on April 19th. At that time, the employers’ negotiating committee had already recommended rejection.

IG BAU had originally demanded 500 euros more wages, salaries and training allowances per month for a period of one year. The employers of the ZDB and HDB industry associations had offered two salary increases of 3.3 percent for this year and 3.2 percent for next year. They had referred to the crisis, particularly in housing construction, and accused the union of completely ignoring it.

The construction industry is one of the largest employers in Germany and, with sales of around 162 billion euros in 2023, according to the construction industry association ZDB, an important pillar for the German economy. The industry had supported the economy for years during the real estate boom, but now it has become a problem child due to the crisis in housing construction.