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Fisher, Paul / Works councils in Germany

Union and works council relations under legislation since 1945,   pp. 8-11 PDF (1.7 MB)

Page 11

- 11 -
remains so much ink and paper. 3xcept in the rare instance of rival
union claims, union influence on the works council election procedure
is often subordinated to the influence of political groups. Usually,
all candidates belong to the union, but the decisive issue is their
political affiliation. Despite an election system which recognizes
only the election of individuals and not of party lists, extra-legal
caucuses of SPD, CDU, and Communist Party cells in the plant will
engineer the elections in many instances. /
In most works council elections, the issue is not unionism
vs. non-unionism, but KPD against SPD or CDU. Inasmuch as the unions
are politically neutral, all lists claim to be union-sponsored, but
actually most works council elections are held along strict party
lines. Such a procedure still leaves the works council under control,
at least formally, of the union. It merely identifies the elected
individuals, in the minds of the voters, more closely with the
respective political party than with the union. As long as party
affiliation does not interfere with union allegiance, the union has
no reason to complain. Union interest is involved, however, where
the danger exists that one of the parties may wish to capture or
destroy the union.
Not many other rights of the unions to control works council
activities which the various laws had established were utilized.
The one which was practiced most widely was the right of union
officers, at the invitation of the works councils, to address quarterly
works assemblies.
.   For example, an SPD-CDU coalition in a large automobile plant
succeeded in unseating the KPD-dominated works council. On
the other hand, an SPD majority, in a decartelized steel plant
visited, was ousted by a CDU-KPD alliance. It is usually the
FPD which maintains a strong political cell in the plant, while
the other parties act only defensively.

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