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Fisher, Paul / Works councils in Germany

Non-legal methods of union control of works council activities,   pp. 12-16 PDF (2.4 MB)

Page 15

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these shop stewards are elected by the union members only.
According to the various union constitutions, each shop or
division elects its union representatives. The metal workers
provide in principle for one shop steward for every 30 union
rmemrbers.  The shop stewards solicit membership, collect dues,
discuss and implement union policy, and provide the liaison
between union members and the works council.   Apart from the shop
stewards, the union members also elect delegates to union conventions.
IXhile the delegates represent the union members outside the plant
in the local, regional or national union organizations, the shop
stewards act within the plant. There they hold their own meetings,
form the "shop steward body", elect their own chairman etc.
Theoretically, the shop stewards and their assembly could
exercise a controlling function over the works council and keep
it in line. In many plants organized by the Metal Union,
the works council actually reports monthly to the shop stewards.
(In one case, the employer even consented, in a shop agreement,
to pay for the time spent in such meetings during working hours
by his 80-odd shop stewards.) This meeting could become a check
on, and a source of information and union inspiration for the
works council. Actually, the works council chairman and the other
members of the works council so often unite in their person some
important union office - they are the presidents of the local or
the elected shop steward chairman, delegate, if not memhbers of the
national union executive committee - that the position is normally
reversed. As a rule, the shop stewards then function as agents of
the works council in their respective shops and divisions where
they perform council functions, such as the processing of grievances,
and refer to the council only those grievances which they are unable
to settle.
Shop Agreenents'
To prevent works councils from entering into shop agreements
which may prove embarrassing for the union, e.g. interpreting union
rules or provisions of the collective agreement in a way which is
unacceptable to the union, some unions have attempted to participate
in the field of plant agreements. Thus far, the unions have failed
to avail themselves of the opportunity afforded by the collective
bargaining law of February 2, 1949 which permits the determination
of intra-shop conditions by the collective agreement. Instead, they
have preferred either to recommend model shop agreements to the
works councils, or to step in wherever a dangerous situation was
developing and, in most cases, they were in time to prevent any
damage. The miners, however, are now thinking of establishing a
model shop agreement in mutual understanding with the employers'
association. Thus, this area of activity heretofore reserved for

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