Last attack on citizen money – economy

Hubertus Heil was late, but now he’s sitting there, right next to the employer president. And Rainer Dulger does not miss this opportunity to tease the SPD labor minister for his controversial major project. “You’re crossing a line,” says Dulger. The planned citizens’ allowance is a “resounding slap in the face for people who go to work every morning”. The reform cannot stay the way it is now.

Monday afternoon in the heart of Berlin. The Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (BDA) has invited to the discussion at Pariser Platz, directly at the Brandenburg Gate. In addition to Labor Minister Hubertus Heil, there are coalition politicians Johanns Vogel (FDP) and Andreas Audretsch (Greens) with political competition from the CDU. It should actually be about entrepreneurial freedom in times of crisis, but in the week of the decision on citizen income, the labor market reform largely dominated the debate here too. The informal talks between the traffic light coalition and the Union are about a compromise, and the mediation committee of the Bundestag and Bundesrat is expected to announce an agreement on Wednesday.

This is the last opportunity for both sides to try to exert influence once again, in order to prevent the worst from the point of view of the employers or, from the point of view of the coalition, to bring the reform closer to one or the other in the room. His goal is “to make a good law even better,” asserts FDP Vice-Chairman Johannes Vogel.

“The citizens’ income waters down the principle of promoting and demanding,” Dulger calls out

For Employer President Dulger, however, the plans are part of the wrong political decisions made by the ruling traffic light coalition, which is driving companies to ruin or abroad, of all times, in times of “multiple crises”. “I’m very worried about the business location,” says Dulger. Structures threatened to collapse that would not come back. The President of the Employers lists what, of course, bothered the entrepreneurs even before the crisis: lack of skilled workers, regulations for a stronger collective agreement, i.e. for more companies that commit to collective agreements, a stronger recording of working hours – and of course the citizen’s income.

“The citizen’s income waters down the principle of promoting and demanding,” Dulger calls out. It must remain “more advantageous” to work than not to work. But now, with the plans of the traffic light to leave significantly more assets to those receiving citizen income, the credibility of the welfare state will be undermined. Hubertus Heil tries a mixture of hugging and attacking. Funding and demanding, that will also be the case in citizen income, he says, in the pandemic, the self-employed also got basic security who never expected it. Work must and will of course be worthwhile – but for weeks now a different impression has been “developed” and this is “demonstrably wrong”. Rainer Dulger can feel addressed here.

But what does this mean for a possible compromise with the representatives of the Union? As in the past week, Heil asserts that the negotiations with the Union are not to be conducted publicly. But at one point he shows a concrete willingness to compromise: when it comes to protective assets. This is the wealth that citizens’ income recipients should be allowed to keep, even if they receive government support. In principle, such assets above certain tax-free allowances must be used up before the state secures the livelihood. The traffic light coalition wants to use the citizen money to significantly increase the protective assets. “None of us are dogmatic about that,” says Heil.

It is also evident from his coalition partners how much effort they are making at least for an atmosphere of encouragement. “There are also people in the CDU and CSU who are great to talk to,” says Green Party leader Andreas Audretsch. The core of the citizen money is neither the particularly controversial protective assets nor the sanctions against uncooperative recipients of help, but more further training and more skilled workers – a concern that Dulger had also formulated. And Johannes Vogel, who, as an FDP politician, must have experienced more pleasant appointments at employers’ meetings, formulated his claim that work should be even more worthwhile in the citizen’s income than in the current Hartz IV model.

Gitta Connemann, the representative of the Union faction and chairwoman of the association of medium-sized companies, has already left the stage. After all, she had not criticized the citizen money in detail. A sign of compromise? In any case, Hubertus Heil is certain that the citizens’ income will come in the end: “It will also be decided.”

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