Are German Museums Dodging Minimum Wage Laws?

German museums have come under fire for underpaying young employees. Some state-run institutions stand accused of failing to implement a new minimum wage legislation which came into force on January 1, Monopol reports.

An analysis of job listings revealed that some museums are underpaying young people by advertising positions with a full-time workload as apprenticeships. For example, in one job announcement, an unnamed state museum seeks three apprentices. The list of responsibilities includes restoration and maintenance, as well as looking after transports. There is no mention of any educational programs or training.

According to the job description, payment for the three identical positions is based on the remuneration of civil servants. However, the German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB) calculated that the hourly pay for the advertized positions is only €6.17/hour. “The current listing is clearly trying to lower wages by offering a job under the guise of an apprenticeship,” said Karsten Schneider, head of officials and public services at the DGB. “The jobs described in these advertisements are indicative of regular work, not training in its proper sense,” he added.

Although the minimum wage of €8.50 does not apply to apprentices, German institutions are blurring the line between apprenticeship and full-time work. According to Schneider, a public service collective agreement stipulates that the salary paid for anyone performing qualified work is normally twice as high as for apprentices or volunteers.

In response, Eckart Köhne, President of the German Association of Museums said, “The German Association of Museums has supported the reasonable payment of volunteers for many years.” He opined that gaining practical experience at a museum is equal to professional training.

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