How Germany Competes Through Exports

By February 27, 2010Economy, Labor Unions

More from The New York Times’ very interesting report on Germany’s manufacturers and the country’s export-driven economy, “Germany’s Export Prowess Weighs on Euro-Zone“:

[German] workers were once the ones known for being too expensive and inflexible. But for years, unions have accepted modest wage increases, and they agreed to measures that help companies address fluctuations in demand without resorting to mass firing.

For example, Glasbau Hahn — which is not unionized — managed to avoid any layoffs last year by deploying so-called work-time accounts, a widely used tool. Employees bank overtime hours during busy periods. When business is slow, they work less but draw on the accounts to keep receiving the same pay.

Employers also have come to value Germany’s political stability and the skills of its workers, even when they are more costly. In the coming week, Sun Chemical, a maker of specialty inks for food packaging based in Parsippany, N.J., will inaugurate a new plant in Frankfurt employing 120 people.

“You can get cheaper labor in other countries,” said Rudi Lenz, chief executive of Sun Chemical. “But we need trained and experienced people, and you find them in Germany.”

Work-time accounts? Looks like flex-time. [UPDATE: We meant comp time. It looks like comp time.]

Glasbau Hahn’s website (in English) is here. Sun Chemical’s is

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