Fisher, Paul / Works councils in Germany
Dangers to the union position, pp. 18-27 PDF (4.8 MB)
- 27 If company-mindedness prevails to such an extent, it is not surprising that the employer, unless confronted with a communist- dominated works council, prefers dealing with his works council to doing business with the union. A minority view, expressed by two employers' associations recognized, however, in the union the more stable, the basically more conservative, economic and social force as opposed to the quite unpredictable works council. Manifestations of Company-Mindedness The manifestations of this company-mindedness are quite serious. There have been cases of works councils: insisting on overtime work when the union opposed it in the interest of the unemployed; preferring the discharge of some employees to the union demand for shorter hours for all; applying to public labor offices for exemption from night-work prohibition laws for women in violation of union policy. A works council in a decartelized I.G. Farben plant in Ludwigshafen demanded the restoration of private stockholder rights because it had been convinced by management that this was a condition for foreign investment credits. At the same time, the unions were fighting such a move since it would jeopardize their hope for nationalization of the I.G. Farben empire. Works councils have been observed making unilateral demands on German and Occupation authorities to halt dismantling of plants, robbing thereby parallel union efforts of their effectiveness. W;orks councils are inclined to lobby government for credits and, in the past, also for relief from price control when such action cannot be supported by the union. Pioneering in a new and dangerous field of labor activities, one works council offered an exclusive sales contract to the works council of a customer firm to assure orders for the firm and jobs for the workers. When the Hamburg city government mobilized funds for work-relief, the number of persons employed fell to one-third of the estimate, inasmuch as the employed workers, through their works councils, pressed for a longer work week for those already employed. 'While the metal workers attempted to achieve equal pay for equal work for women workers in Berlin, the works councils of Siemens and Halske and AEG agreed in shop agreements to a considerable differential in favor of men. So strong is the pressure from below in these cases that a union which opposed family allowances and company housing in principle acquiesced in such practices when the works council of a rubber plant remained adamant. The list could be prolonged ad infinitum j/. It should have become obvious by now that in all these cases the works council's action represented the true but short-sighted will of the employed. Involved here is not necessarily employer domination, certainly not democracy, but a conflict between the interests of the smaller and the larger group, between short and long-term benefits, a universal problem transcending the ield of labor. / See Dr. Herbert Bachmann in "Recht der Arbeit," 1949, p. 168 for further examples.
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