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Short-time work because nothing works, or does nothing work because of short-time work?

LIQUI MOLY Managing Director Ernst Prost on the industry’s way of dealing with the corona crisis

Dear colleagues,

No doubt about it, corona has hit us hard. Like lightning, like a cannonball, like a bomb. What do you do in such times? I preach countermeasures, rebellion, fighting, and resisting with all my strength against these blows and shocks. What do I see – not everywhere, but widespread? Exactly the opposite. People accept approvingly and even fatalistically what is happening, take the state welfare programs and, after the short-time work, also their annual vacation.

Does nothing work anymore because of corona? Or does nothing work because of short-time work? Of course: If everyone shuts up shop and goes on holiday, nothing will work. However, this is only due to corona to a limited extent. Artisans tell me that they are not getting any goods because factories are still closed or working short-time and therefore they cannot fulfill their orders. Publishers whine to me that they are no longer receiving advertising orders, but then no one can be reached. Our suppliers do not deliver because nothing works anyway – that is why we sometimes lack raw materials and packaging materials. Something is wrong here. Of course, if it is cheaper to send the crew home on short-time work, thereby reducing the wage costs and still be halfway profitable in this way – no, not working, just existing – then it is already clear that corona has to be used as a fig leaf to conceal one’s own inactivity.

How many years and decades has our economy been doing well now? Steadily uphill, blessed by growth, wage increases and profits bubbling up almost automatically? “Nothing is harder to bear than a streak of good luck,” they say. And it is even more difficult to switch from success, prosperity and comfort – to which one gets used to very quickly – back to hustling, hard work and setting one’s sights lower. In many companies and their teams, the corona bomb has hit hard and wrecked everything. There they are indeed fighting, just as one really must fight to survive. But, in other sectors and companies, short-time work and work-from-home have been seen more as additional holidays or a sabbatical year, depending on how well the state, using our social systems, has pumped out the water that is up to some people’s necks and pumped tax money in. When can I go on holiday again and when do the Bundesliga soccer games start again? These are the worries of some, while others have to go, cap in hand, to the insolvency administrator. But the impacts are becoming more and more widespread and now also affecting those who have carried on with their activities in their usual relaxed manner on a supposedly safe island. First it was hairdressers, cafés and hotels and now it is hitting the once-powerful car manufacturers and unfortunately also their suppliers. Short-time work is being followed by mass layoffs. The banks are watching this and cutting loans. Tough also for the house builder who might lose his job.

Well, the economy doesn’t happen in a nice little bubble. Nope. Economy, that’s all of us – 83 million Germans. And each depends on the other.

Made in Germany. A trademark, a kind of medal for outstanding quality and innovation. But for me it has always been a guarantee of reliability, punctuality, ambition, diligence, responsibility and the ability, whenever push comes to shove, to perform better and work harder than in normal times. Crises are not fought by short-time work, but only by more work. Skills and dedication are in demand if one does not want to drown. We have these skills. We just need to activate them. Then we will also master this crisis, and the next one, and the next one, which will all come as surely as night follows day.

With fond regards,

Yours,

Ernst Prost


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