Fisher, Paul / Works councils in Germany
Works council- a factor in union weakness, pp. 28-32 PDF (2.3 MB)
- 30 - domination. Jhere union backing weakened, works councils became impotent, tools of management, or disappeared entirely. The great advantage which labor had seen in the law, namely its permanence and independence from the fluctuations of organizational strength proved futile. The high price labor had paid for securing its gains by the legislative method, namely the loss of greater gains individual unions in a strong bargaining position could have made, all this for the sake of labor solidarity, had been paid in vain. It has been the experience of unions everywhere that not the law alone, but the legally protected and sponsored voluntary agreement - sometimes arrived at only after an economic struggle - yields greater and more lasting gains. The foregoing discussion does not intend to question the German union's decision to strike or not to strike at any given point of time. It does not advocate the strike. It simply attempts to clarify to what extent the prevailing statist line of thought affects the union's attitude towards economic action. As far as the works council is concerned, Control Council Law No. 22 attempted to teach the lesson of voluntarism by changing the nature of the works council from a compulsory to a voluntary association of working men. Unlike the WJeimar law, Law No. 22 does not compel but only permits the formation of works councils which would thereafter come about through agreement between capital and labor, company and union. lihile this may necessitate a show of force, more lasting and better results for the workers could be achieved in this fashion. The shop agreement concluded between the management and the works council of the AEG Berlin on the basis of Allied legislation gave the council and the union far greater benefits - and sooner - than all the State laws which followed. Neither German employers nor German labor, however, was able and willing at that time to forsake legalism for the economism and voluntarism of the labor agreement. The Bavarian unions and employers in the metal industry, as well as the General Employers' Association and the DGB Wuertteemberg-Hohenzollern also used the opportunity offered by Law No. 22 for the purpose of producing a "model shop agreement." Their intention, however,, was not to clear the way for voluntary agreements but to write another works council law with more specific provisions than the "frame" which Law No. 22 had erected. Instead of filling this "frame" by agreement, the parties preferred a "law" regardless of the fact that such laws tend to place a ceiling on workers' demands, a straitjacket on works council-employer relations, and finally an end to experimentation. Not even the new and democratic German trade unionism could free itself from the traditional spirit of etatism, of uniformity and "legality" which 12 years of Nazi domination had only reinforced. It proved unwilling and was probably at that time also unable to assume the risk of independent economic action.
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