German army forced to lay down weapons due to 'overtime limits'
Justin Huggler, berlin
10 APRIL 2016 • 5:31PM
The German military, once the most feared fighting force in Europe, is being forced to lay down its weapons by restrictive new overtime limits.
German soldiers taking part in a four-week Nato exercise in Norway earlier this year had to leave after just 12 days because they had gone over their overtime limits, it has emerged.
Troops have complained to a parliamentary watchdog that they are being forced to spend entire days doing nothing under the new rules.
“It can’t be that we can’t fulfil our Nato obligations because of overtime,” Hans-Peter Bertels, the German parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces, told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
Ursula von der Leyen, the defence minister, has been widely criticised for reforms that have seen creches and flat-screen TVs introduced to military bases and postings limited to match school term dates.
She has been accused of prioritising the wrong issues at a time when the military is facing equipment shortages that have seen soldiers training with broomsticks instead of guns.
Last year it emerged that fewer than half of Germany's 66 Tornado aircraft were airworthy.
Under the latest reforms, in force since January, the military working week has been reduced to 41 hours and troops can no longer be paid for working overtime.
Instead they must be compensated with alternate time off.
Mr Bertels, an MP appointed to oversee the armed forces, said the new rules had forced training camps to close at 4.30pm and left soldiers stranded on base.
Some who commuted to work were forced to spend entire days doing nothing as there wasn’t time for them to return home.
He called for the new rules to be revised and weekly working hours to be replaced with an annual limit.
The German Armed Forces Association has also spoken out against the new arrangements.
“At the moment the armed forces are fighting teethin problems and defects in implementing the new system,” Lt Col André Wüstner, the association chairman, told Bild.
“This naturally must not be allowed to jeopardise our readiness.”