Saturday, May 3, 2014

...Never Promised you a Rose Garden

The title is the only reference to "the visit" you'll find on the blog.

...never promised you a rose garden is very appropriate to the working conditions of German postal service subcontractors. In their case, you can say the promise has been kept.

The old couple we see every now and then delivering packages from online retailers is but one example. The man and the woman drive a beat up old car, and you know the second you see how they interact that they have been married for a long time. Now, they spend some of their golden years delivering toys, shoes, electronic goods or whatever else you buy online these days. The manner in which they check their list and verify the GPS is both touching and sad, like an old age version of Hansel and Gretel. Having chased bread crumbs all their adult life, they seem resigned to the fact that bread crumbs is all there will ever be for them.

A long article in today's Zeit online, only 48 hours after the labor day May Day, is another stark reminder of the tears in the fabric of the German labor market since the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Like much of the logistics and transportation sector as a whole, subcontractors for Germany's once state owned postal service live a precarious existence. With an income of about 800 Euros a month for a 40 hour work week, 16 hours of unpaid overtime included, these folks make about half of what a driver employed by the postal service makes in his first year.

800 before taxes, can you live on that?

No, so how doe they do it? The answer described in the article and supported by accounts from a couple of friends at the low end of the totem pole are tax free benefits and reimbursements. Benefits such as money for meals when traveling, reimbursement of cell phone charges and others.
The beauty of this mechanism is that many items are covered by lump sums, no receipts or invoices required by the government, yet they are tax free expenditures for the company and tax free income for the drivers or loaders.
Either completely fictitious costs or inflated expenditures.
Our friends from the former "Random Research team", for instance, make a few extra euros to fill in when a co-worker gets sick or takes a day off. Their boss has a kind of round robin system for the routes which allows them to get about ten euros for familiarizing themselves with a route they already know from some time ago.

The much hyped minimum wage of 8.50 euros slated to be introduced in Germany starting in 2015 is how much compared to the example above?

About 75% more.

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