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Siemens says to slash 6,900 jobs worldwide in restructuring

Industrial conglomerate Siemens on Thursday announced thousands of job cuts worldwide, most of them in its fossil fuels division, with unions and politicians in its home country Germany particularly outspoken against the plans.

Siemens says to slash 6,900 jobs worldwide in restructuring
File photo: DPA.

 A total of 6,900 workers are set to lose their jobs, around half of them in Germany, where Siemens also plans to close sites in the country's economically weaker east.

“The power industry is experiencing disruption of unprecedented scope and speed,” board member Lisa Davis said in a statement, saying layoffs were necessary to keep Siemens competitive.

The Munich-based group says global demand for the large turbines its power and gas unit produces “has fallen drastically” as renewable energy has become more popular.

This has sapped profitability as there is not enough demand to keep its factories turning.

In Germany, that division alone will shed 2,600 jobs and close sites in Goerlitz and Leipzig, both in the former communist east.

“This is sad news… a sudden bolt from the blue for Leipzigers,” said Stanislaw Tillich, premier of Saxony state.

Some 1,100 jobs are set to go in the rest of Europe, while the US will see 1,800 layoffs.

German employee representatives have vowed to resist job cuts, as they would follow on the heels of flourishing annual results for the sprawling group.

Chief executive Joe Kaeser had already warned of “painful cuts” last week, even as Siemens reported 11 percent growth in net profit for 2016-17, to €6.2 billion ($7.3 billion).

But he had pledged to “soften the blow” by reassigning or retraining workers, a promise the group reiterated Thursday.

“Siemens must gradually ask itself, do we want to remain an integrated technology group, or is it only about pleasing shareholders?” Juergen Wechsler, head of the powerful IG Metall union in Bavaria, told news agency DPA.

The company – whose products range from trains to wind turbines to medical equipment – has already announced some 6,000 job cuts in its wind power unit, sapped by falling prices in major markets like India and the US.

Further site closures and layoffs would be met with “creative forms of resistance,” IG Metall board member Juergen Kerner warned in an interview with WirtschaftsWoche magazine on Wednesday.

Siemens employs around 350,000 people worldwide, with around 115,000 of them in Germany.

'Discontent and doubts'

Germany's poorer eastern states have yet to fully recover from decades of communist mismanagement and an arduous reunification with the west since 1990.

Alongside the closures in Goerlitz and Saxony, almost 900 jobs are set to go in Berlin, while the group is considering selling off a site in Thuringian state capital Erfurt.

Cuts in the east “could stoke the discontent and the doubts” that helped far-right party Alternative for Germany into parliament with 12.6 percent of the vote in September elections, outgoing economy minister Brigitte Zypries wrote in a letter to Kaeser seen by Bild newspaper.

For its part, IG Metall accused Siemens of being “irresponsible” by showing thousands of employees the door while the group as a whole is turning in healthy profits – and by failing to consult closely with workers, as was the norm at big German conglomerates for decades.

The group laid off some 15,000 people in 2013, partly as a consequence of Germany's decision to abandon nuclear energy in favour of renewables.

Under Kaeser's tenure, whole divisions have been abandoned or sold off, including household appliances, telecoms networks and nuclear and solar energy.

Tearing up a 2008 agreement that ruled out layoffs short of an “existential crisis” at the firm “would disquiet colleagues in all of the divisions,” union boss Kerner said, especially when “the group is doing well” overall.

Battling the same headwinds, Siemens' US competitor General Electric on Monday announced a restructuring of its own, with thousands of job cuts around the globe as it narrows its focus to aeronautics, health and energy.

For members

WORKING IN GERMANY

7 tips for how to survive as a freelancer in Germany

Taking the decision to go it alone and freelance in Germany can be a daunting prospect. But, if you do it right, it can be an exciting and liberating path. Here are some of our top tips on how to survive.

7 tips for how to survive as a freelancer in Germany

1. Get a tax advisor

The German tax system is complicated, even for Germans. All the associated paperwork uses the Amtsprache (authority language) which is more like legalese than ‘normal’ German, and mistakes when filling out tax forms can cause you, at best, a massive headache and, at worst, a costly fine. So it’s best that you employ someone who knows what they’re doing to help you out.

That person is called a Steuerberater (tax advisor) in Germany. They will help you register with the tax office, correspond with them and submit your tax declarations.

Be aware that, in Germany, different deadlines apply for tax returns depending on whether you employ an official tax advisor or not. If you are doing the tax return on your own, the deadline for submitting your annual tax return is earlier than if you use a tax advisor’s services. 

READ ALSO: What NOT to do when you’re freelancing in Germany

When looking for a tax advisor, a top tip is to use your network to get recommendations. Ideally, you want someone who will do more than just fill in the forms for you, but who will actually advise you on how best to manage your business finances so that you can make tax savings.

2. Keep your accounting in order

The better you keep your own accounts in order, the easier it will be for your tax advisor to compile your tax declarations and therefore the cheaper their services will be.

As a freelancer, there are a lot of costs you can deduct from your taxes – from train tickets, working materials, to meals out – so it’s best to keep hold of all your receipts and to keep them in good order.

2 euros and 50 cents lie on a receipt in a beer garden. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

In Germany, you’re obliged to keep hold of receipts for two years, in case of a tax inspection, so it’s a good idea to photocopy the type of machine-printed receipts you get from restaurants so that they stay legible for a long time.

There are also a few things to be aware of when writing your own invoices. Firstly, make sure that you include your tax number. This isn’t the 11-digit Steueridentifikationsnummer that everyone gets when registering in Germany, but the 10-digit Steuernummer you get from the Finanzamt after registering yourself as a freelancer. 

Most companies won’t pay you if you don’t have this on your invoices so make sure you include it.

You should also make sure that you number your invoices properly – ideally in ascending order so that you can easily keep track of them. You are not allowed to issue two invoices with the same number and if you do so and the finance office notices, you could face an inspection of your whole accounting system.

There are numerous great accounting software programmes you can use to help you, such as Lexoffice and Sevdesk and, even if you have to pay for them, the costs will be tax deductible!

3. Find out if you’re eligible for financial support

In Germany, there are several opportunities for freelancers to gain financial support and to cut their outgoings, and its worth finding out if you’re eligible for them.

If you’re claiming unemployment benefits under ALG 1 and are thinking about becoming a freelancer, the employment office offers a special type of financial support to help you to get your freelance business off the ground.

Called the Grundungszuschuss (“foundation grant”) the payment is a six-month grant equalling your monthly entitlement under ALG 1 plus €300 towards your insurance costs can be applied for those in receipt of this unemployment benefit.

READ ALSO: Will freelancers benefit from Germany’s €300 energy allowance?

If you are engaged in some form of artistic profession in Germany – which can include journalism to pottery – you may be entitled to membership to the Kunstlersozialkasse (artists’ social insurance).

Being a member of the KSK means you only have to pay half of your health insurance and pension contributions, and the KSK will pay the rest.

4. Work out how much you think you will earn

As with starting any business, you need to have some idea of your expected earnings from the outset.

If you’re just starting out as a freelancer, or have some freelance gigs on the side of an employment position, then it might be worth considering registering yourself as a Kleinunternehmer (“small business”).

As a Kleinunternehmer, you can currently earn up to €22.000 per year without having to charge VAT and having to submit only yearly tax declarations. 

An income tax declaration form lies on a table. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Hans-Jürgen Wiedl

Be aware that if you are registered as this kind of freelancer, you must include the following sentence in your invoices: ‘Gemäß § 19 UStG wird keine Umsatzsteuer berechnet’ which means ‘In accordance with Paragrah19 of the German VAT law, no VAT has been added to this invoice.’

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about your German tax return in 2022

If you think you will earn more than €22.000 per year, you will need to pay Umsatzsteuer (VAT) and will have to submit tax declarations in advance and more often. Depending on how much you earn, this could be every month or every quarter. 

5. Get your insurance in order

In Germany, it’s a legal requirement to have health insurance.

If you’ve just made the move from employment to being a freelancer and want to keep the same health insurer, you should get in contact with your health insurance provider straight away to tell them about your change of circumstances. They will ask you to re-register and to tell them your projected freelance earnings for the year, so they can amend your monthly fees.

If you don’t keep your health insurer provider updated, you could continue to be charged the higher rate that you had from your previous salary.

The insurance cards of the health insurance companies DAK, AOK, Barmer and Techniker-Krankenkasse TK lie with euro notes under a stethoscope. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Daniel Karmann

It’s not just health insurance you need to think about as a freelancer. It’s also wise to think about protecting yourself from any sort of claims that could arise as a result of any working mishaps. 

If, for example, you lose your laptop which contains confidential client information, you need to be protected against claims.

That’s why it’s good to have both Betriebshaftversicherung (business liability insurance) and Rechtschutzversicherung (legal protection insurance).

6. Plan your time wisely

All of these bureaucratic obligations take time. So it’s really important that you take account of that when planning your time. For example, planning half a day a week to deal with your invoices, filing, emails to clients, and conversations with authorities can be really beneficial when scheduling your working time. 

7. Grow your network

As a freelancer, networking is absolutely crucial to success. 

Keep an up-to-date profile on websites like LinkedIn and German equivalent XING and keep in contact with anyone you’ve ever worked with, no matter how brief the contact was. 

Having a network is not only about getting more clients, but also about building a support network in your field to exchange advice, tips and generally for your own enrichment. 

Participating in workshops related to your field, going to seminars, and meet-ups, can be great ways of broadening your network. 

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