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Fisher, Paul / Works councils in Germany

Conclusions,   pp. 43 ff. PDF (581.4 KB)

Page 43

- 43 -
1.  The dual nature of the modern union as a political and as
a business organization has lor.g been recognized in practice and
literature. The first aspect makes the union one of the most
democratic expressions of rank-and-file sentinent in present-day
society. Its business character requires, as in all business
organizations, a strong, at times even dictatorial, leadership.
In the eternal struggle between union democracy and the need for
strong leadership, the local plant organization must be the strong
advocate of the popular cause. There is some evidence to the
effect that the independent works council is in a stronger position
to play this role than a dependent union local. Many observers will
arree that any expression of genuine democratic action in German
life should be encouraged. The labor scene is no exception. It
would hence appear that at least for the present, the works council,
with all its shortcomings fulfills a useful task. This institution
certainly has its dangers for the unions, but these can be checked
effectively by a vigilant and strong union movement. The German labor
movement gives all indications of awareness of the problem and of the
need for strengthening its organization. To this latter end it is
very advisable to give a high priority to the task of creating a
stronger cohesion within its ranks, particularly between leadership
and rank-and-file membership.
2. The German employers are at present devoting so much effort
to fighting off of union demands for participation in the management
(economic codetermination) that they occasionally forego taking full
advantage of the opportunities for improving management-labor relations,
which the works council offers. It is to be expected that this
situation will change in time, i.e. with the final settlement of the
codetermination issue on the federal level, with the continued decrease
of communist influence in works councils, and with the return of more
normal business conditions.
3. Only if employers and unions give their unreserved approval
to a federal law, will the institution works council be able to yield
the full benefits which its proponents expect from it. Only then
will it become an instrument of industrial peace and at the same time
a powerful aid in the effort for increased productivity.

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