Peter Koch, 58, married with two daughters, is a 36-year veteran of Berliner Druckerei, a printing company formerly owned and operated by the Communist Party. It has already shed 25% of its staff in a post-reunification streamlining.
“I’m older, so I’m not as optimistic as the younger ones. It will take a few years for things to get better here, but by then, my time will be up. At 58, I also wouldn’t have a chance in the west (of Germany).
“We’re trying to compete, but we’re behind in our technology. We’ve bought a 5-year-old machine from the west and it will be installed shortly. Then it’s up to us to make the difference. If we’d had it sooner, we wouldn’t have been in the position to have to turn away work.
“If this factory doesn’t survive, then it’s over for me, and what I read in the papers doesn’t make things look very rosy. I earn 50% of what I would earn in the west, but that wasn’t so bad because I paid less tax and rent. Now, I have to pay more taxes, higher rent and more for health and social security. Now, they’ve just tripled the cost of electricity.
“My wife was laid off last week and has taken early retirement. One daughter has lost her job and the other one is on maternity leave. If they don’t fold up the day-care centers in the east (of Berlin), she’s planning to go back to work.
“The mood at home isn’t really great. We’ve got a nice zoo near our house and now I hear they may take it to western Berlin and combine in with the one there. I have the feeling we’re now a colony. There are some things that are good here, but anything in the former East Germany is going to go. It’s not really a unification, it’s a takeover.
“If I’m optimistic about 1991, I’ll still have a job by the end of the year. If that happens, I’ll be happy. If things don’t work out, I’ll have to take early retirement.”