Kronach Craftsmen roll up their sleeves in the crisis

Kronach craftsmen roll up their sleeves in the crisis

The corona virus dominates the headlines of 2020. In the beginning, everything revolved around medical aspects, but as time went on, short-time work, the threat of company bankruptcies and existential fears came more and more into focus.

A field of tension in which the domestic craft businesses also find themselves. Their situation in the pandemic varies greatly from industry to industry, however, as district master craftsman heinrich schneider notes during an interview in his carpentry shop in theisenort. Mr. Schneider, how did the skilled trades in the kronach district react to the lockdown and the hygiene decreases?? Heinrich schneider: the uncertainty was great in the beginning. We have implemented the specifications to the best of our knowledge and belief. But in the course of time, they overtook each other so quickly that we hardly knew what the current status was. There was different information every day. The kreishandwerkerschaft has supported us well in this phase. The important thing was that we were then classified as systemically important. We were and are very careful in our work. There were no problems at all with the police and the authorities. While others were in lockdown, many craftsmen had to work on-site for customers. Was this performance perceived by the public?? There have really been people who have said: "it’s okay that you come." in the beginning, there was sometimes a bit more tip money from one or the other employee. How were such work visits from the point of view of the craftsmen?? Some of those who had to go to the customer did not feel good afterwards when they went back to their colleagues in the workshop. We also heard of a case in which a customer denied a corona infection, which paralyzed an entire workshop. We occasionally had to ask our craftsmen to distance themselves from a customer, but the behavior of most people was really okay. There was a lot of common sense and a lot of decency involved. Does the crisis affect the craft sector at the economic level?? The skilled trades are much more resilient to such situations than industry is. Exceptions are of course branches such as our hairdressers, butchers or bakers, who were hit hard by the protection measures. If you have worked close to people, short-time work was already an issue. Apart from that, however, the structure of the skilled trades is different – better – than that of industry. We’re more familiar, in industry the employee becomes a number much more quickly. But the amount of work that had to be done to organize the various acceptance tests was quite a challenge for us. And then there were certainly also delivery bottlenecks. Correct. Procuring materials was difficult at the beginning. Because some suppliers quickly went into short-time work, some things became scarce. It could happen that a craftsman produced something for 10,000 euros, but then he was missing a 50-euro component for it. The only thing that often helped was to look for alternatives ourselves – and that in turn meant more work for us. That’s why I’m also against making such a blanket demand for short-time work again. What has helped the craft in this situation? The reduction in value-added tax, at least, hardly. It gave us blob more work. Only those craftsmen who have sold trades, for them it is good. In my opinion, the lever had to be applied to social security contributions; what a good employee earns today is too little, but what he costs the company is too much. There is a huge gap. What would mean another lockdown for the craft?? It will hit even harder the companies that have already been hit by the first lockdown. Then our customers certainly became more cautious, because they could no longer foresee where the journey would take them. And once again, people were no longer so relaxed. The interview was conducted by marco meibner

Not every rule can stand up to professional reality

Not only the district master craftsman was concerned about the developments of the past months. Representatives of the various trades also spoke with him before the FT interview about their situation during the lockdown and in the subsequent period.

"Often it was and is not possible to keep a distance", michael bluml (painter/cleaner) told of the professional reality that sometimes frustrates the efforts to consistently comply with all regulations. There had also always been uncertainties about the interpretation of legal requirements, for example in the implementation of the mask requirement. Bluml also reported on individual order cancellations and postponements.

Edith memmel (ceramist/topfer) explained that the businesses had been happy about the bavarian emergency aid. The failure of markets and trade fairs had led to problems for the ceramics industry. In the meantime, the situation has stabilized. The customers came to the stores more intensely. She was critical of the fact that, initially, entire industries had hoped for a "ban on the profession" had been given instead of working out conclusive hygiene concepts with them.

Alfred fohrweiser (metal) recognized light and shadow in the various aid measures. As far as orders were concerned, an enormous decline had been followed by a considerable upswing. "At the moment we have a very good capacity utilization", he noted. Among customers, however, the initial tolerance has now turned into impatience. Meanwhile, the craftsmen were reaching the limits of their capacity.

For the sanitary, heating and air-conditioning sector, ulrich obmann reported difficulties in two respects. On the one hand, there had been problems at the beginning in carrying out orders from customers, on the other hand, companies from the automotive industry, for example, had canceled complete orders. Not to forget the delayed deliveries as well as the more difficult working conditions due to the hygiene regulations.

Stefan heyder (toolmaker) said that the problems of the coarse industry were having an impact on his sector. And there was a lot of bureaucracy attached to the aid programs. On the positive side, he said, employees are sticking together.

High burden

Hans-gerald beyer noted that turnover in the butchers’ stores had varied due to restrictions on the number of customers and changing hygiene regulations. Above all, butcher shops with catering facilities had suffered.

"Why do not all of them comply with the rules? Vacations and celebrations – is that so important??", asked heinrich dennewill (a carpenter), who is currently involved in supporting the "small" businesses had hoped for more than the "bullshit" the reduction in value added tax.

In another statement, he said that hairdressers had been almost coerced at the beginning of the pandemic – without any regard for their health. "First the lockdown and then the reopening of the salons cost a lot of energy", according to the representatives of the domestic hairdressing industry. Fear of contact with customers, short-time work and the need to apply for emergency aid had become the order of the day.

The reopening as one of the first industries was a ray of hope. That there are now partly "extreme impertinences" because of the necessary waiting times the fact that there are no rules for the customers is just as incomprehensible for the hairdressers as hygiene regulations, which even put those of the catering industry in the shade.

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