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Fisher, Paul / Works councils in Germany

Dangers to the union position,   pp. 18-27 PDF (4.8 MB)

Page 20

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example, in government service, the postal service, and the
government-owned railways, may produce in the minds of the
uncritical employee the erroneous belief that he can dispense
with union affiliation. In Land Mineland-Palatinate, the
Minister of Interior, supposedly upon union insistence, dissolved
the central works council in the police force. The reasons given
by him for this step were perhaps less acceptable to the union
inasmuch as they were reportedly to keep senior or Junior-grade
officers from being represented on the same works council.
The Rival Union Issue
Even if the works council does ordinarily not create a threat
of dual unionism, it may prove the opening wedge for a rival union.
At present, the position of the DGB is not seriously endangered.
Rival unions appear only at the fringe of white-collar unionism.
There the DGB principle of industrial unionism which claims
jurisdiction over all employees from the janitor to the assistant
manager clashes with the horizontal unionism of the German salaried
employees union (DAG) and the Civil Servants Federation (Deutscher
Beamtenbund), not to mention a few smaller splinter groups. State
laws which follow the pattern of Allied Control Council Law No. 22
(Art. IV/1) provide for a single works council elected by all the
employed persons.   This procedure normally leaves the DGB unions
in firm control and, at the same time, provides for the representation
of the salaried employees. The tradition, however, of the separate
group councils of manual and salaried employees which dates back to
the Weimar law, is still strong. The Bavarian bill would actually
vest the entire power in these groups, leaving the works council and
its chairman in a position of impotency. 2
Danger from Political Parties
The unions face a potentially more powerful danger. This is
presented by the political parties. The party cells in the plant
may take over union functions, the parties may split the DGB or try
to gain control over it. This threat comes from the right and the
left, from neo-fascist, Christian and Communistic organizations.
/ Editorial Note: The recent Bavarian works council law provides
for a single works council consisting of "group representatives"
of wage earners, salaried employees and, in government service,
of civil service officials. The author's comment on the
authority of the group representatives was made before the
final version of the law had been completed.

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