National Geographic : 1977 Aug
ships bound to and from 1,100 ports of the world. Accordingly, Hamburg has more con suls than any other city except New York. West Germany: Continuing Miracle They were sipping beer and playing Klaber jas, a favorite card game. They were pleased to talk about their strike policy: "We feel related to the company." .. "I have a family. Why strike? My insur ance is due every month."... "West Germany has a million unemployed. If we struck, there might be more loss of jobs. We don't want that. We feel a kind of duty."... "If I get 10 to 12 percent more, then maybe the rent goes up too." And so the workers don't strike, but they use pressure, which varies according to in dustry's economic health. One said: "When we were discussing the 1976 contract, there was a recession. So we settled for a small wage increase. But as the 1977 contract came up, you could see the upswing. The ware houses were full." And so when the offer of the employers seemed low, many employees decided not to work any overtime. "Well, the company must have this overtime or break down. It was shocked-it stood on its head. It had to hire farm workers from Lower Saxony-people who didn't know how to drive a crane or a truck. This went on for about four weeks." The result, after hard negotiations: A 6.7 percent salary increase. And instead of hav ing to work every second Saturday, the men now have to work only every fourth. And if a man has worked ten years at the company and is 50 years old, his job is safe. "That's important to us-we are growing older." W HAT KIND OF LIFE, I wondered, would a dockworker's pay buy? At a large apartment complex in Hamburg, Werner Kopp welcomed me into his com fortable, tasteful home. He works for a con tainer terminal, and his wife, Ursula, is a com puter programmer. They have a daughter, 6. Werner's monthly take-home pay is 1,800 marks, $720. His chief expenses are the rent, 500 marks, and a day-care kindergarten for his daughter, 220 marks. The Kopps own a car and a color TV. Like many West Ger mans, they have quit the church to avoid a government-collected church tax. Werner was in good spirits: That day he had driven from a train and into a container the 25,000th Mercedes automobile to be shipped to Japan. There had been a small celebration, a pretty model, photographs.