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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 14

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program is serviced with a bi-monthly journal ("Die Aussprache").
In Hesse, the union tried - but failed - to win legislative support
for the idea of a paid leave of absence for works councillors who
engaged in union training programs. I
Despite the efforts of the German labor movement, it was
found that neither the training nor special bulletins fulfill all
expectations.  The information bulletins, which are somewhat dull,
were not always read. A perhaps necessarily disappointingly small
number of works council members is willing or able to benefit from
the educational program. This is perhaps to be expected since many
leading works council members are now in their late forties or
older, in short, people with whom schooling does not sit well.
Not many workers can afford to forego one or two weeks' pay, and
many are discouraged by the sometime rather highbrow and not too
realistic or practical presentation of subjects which seem to be
taken directly from a college catalogue. In any case, there is
a great danger that well-meaning union officers may overrate the
effect of even the best bulletin or training course.
Union-Sponsored Council I'eetings
Convocation of works councillors by the union represents
another means of inculcating union policy and discipline. Several
unions and the federation arrange for local or regional meetings,
sometimes as often as once a month, usually at irregular intervals.
The degree of participation is generally disappointing but may be
substantial when feelings are running high. Another Hesse attempt
to charge the expense of attending such meetings to the employer
was also defeated by the labor courts. Because of the irregular
attendance records - most unions have to be content when at least
one representative per plant is present - a few unions have installed
a system of frequent works councils visits by headquarters personnel.
Other unions found such a system too costly. The miners, who are
aided in their policy by the fact that they are confronted almost
exclusively by relatively few but large enterprises find, however,
a combination of meetings and visits quite effective.
Union Stewards
A method of control of potentially great importance is the
union plant organization. Many unions maintain in addition to their
(geographically) local organizations a system of shop stewards in
the plants (Betriebs-Vertrauezisleute).  Unlike the works council,
/ Editorial Note:   A Hesse law of November 10, 1950 provides for a
paid leave of absence, varying from one to four weeks, to permit
works councillors to attend union training courses.

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