English Digest Mitbestimmung

This site provides online access in English to a selection of articles that have recently appeared in Mitbestimmung, the monthly magazine of the Hans Boeckler Foundation. The articles cover employee related issues across Europe and industrial relations developments in Germany.

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“These are issues with genuinely far-reaching repercussions”

The planned TTIP free trade agreement between the EU and the US has turned into a long-running political saga. Social Democratic MEP Bernd Lange has been at the forefront of the debate. mehr ...

HR policy co-determination and how it works

The head of the Hans Böckler Foundation’s Company-Level Personnel and Social Affairs Unit, Jan-Paul Giertz, answers questions about the role of the “Arbeitsdirektor” (personnel director). mehr ...

The unwanted legacy of the crisis

A European unemployment insurance scheme could help to foster stability and solidarity in the eurozone. However, the discussions on this issue have stalled. Berlin has poured cold water on the idea, while Brussels is in no mood to risk any new social policy experiments. By Eric Bonse mehr ...

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“A question of fairness”

Former EU Commissioner for Social Affairs László Andor on the need to extend the concept of monetary union to include social Union. mehr ...

A tall order

On 6 March, the German Bundestag passed a law introducing a minimum quota for the number of women on company supervisory boards. The new law poses a challenge for the trade unions – even though they have spent years preparing for it, some issues have yet to be resolved. By Joachim F. Tornau mehr ...

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“Employees want democracy in the workplace”

Werner Nienhüser, an economist at the University of Duisburg-Essen, discusses the results of his study and the big opportunity for “a co-determination offensive”. mehr ...

Time as a fair basis for pay

The reasons for basing pay on time include ethical considerations. Those who seek to replace employment contracts with service contracts are flouting this basic principle. By Ulrich Thielemann mehr ...

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A historic breakthrough

The ETUC is calling for minimum standards for board-level worker participation in all companies established under EU company law. Its unanimously adopted resolution marks the end of a year-long dispute. By Eric Bonse mehr ...

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Keeping up with data protection

As the digital revolution continues to sweep through the workplace, employee representatives find themselves having to negotiate new company-level agreements or their public-sector equivalents on an almost continual basis. By Joachim F. Tornau mehr ...

A manifesto for good digital jobs

In its strategy document “Gute Arbeit in Zeiten des digitalen Umbruchs” (Good Jobs in the Age of the Digital Revolution), the service workers employees’ (ver.di) sets out a series of labour policy priorities for the Internet policy dialogue. By Lothar Schröder, member of ver.di´s National Executive Board mehr ...

Towards a better society

What direction should the trade unions be taking? Industrial sociologists argue that a key feature of many of recent successes is that they were achieved outside the traditional realm of collective bargaining, underpinned by a collective spirit that endows the trade unions with “moral power”. By Gunnar Hinck mehr ...

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Research at the steelworks

What can be done to make contract work fairer? Works council members and employee relations directors in the steel industry are trying to come up with creative Solutions. By Carmen Molitor mehr ...

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The Miracle of Leipzig

When Siemens announced the closure of its switchboard plant, the works council refused to accept the company’s decision. Now, the site has a future again. By Susanne Kailitz mehr ...

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The Lamborghini Experiment

Having decided to embrace employee participation, the Italian sports car manufacturer is now a model for the rest of Europe. Employees at the VW-Audi-owned company now want to step up the pace of change. By Michaela Namuth mehr ...

An exercise in mislabelling

Under the pretext of better EU law and a reduced administrative burden, the outgoing European Commission is conducting a revision of employee protection and participation regulations. They have also declared open season on three information and consultation Directives. By Eric Bonse mehr ...

A learning centre for the global trade union

For ten years now, its courses at locations such as Pennsylvania, Johannesburg and Kassel have provided trade union members with the opportunity to learn to think globally. However, there are still relatively few students from Germany. By Jörn Boewe and Johannes Schulten mehr ...

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“A genuine milestone”

BASF, one of the powerhouses of German co-determination, has gone European. When it adopted European Company status six years ago, it also changed its regulations on employee participation. We ask the chairman of BASF’s European Works Council, Robert Oswald, what has been gained as a result. Robert Oswald was interviewed in Ludwigshafen by Cornelia Girndt and Margarete Hasel mehr ...

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Four countries, one employee representative each

In the future, Belgium, Germany, France and Italy will all have one employee representative on the Board of Directors of credit insurance company Euler Hermes. But getting there was by no means easy. By Andreas Molitor mehr ...

An open invitation to set up brass-plate companies

Following the demise of its European Private Company initiative, the European Commission is now launching another foray into the realm of company law. Its proposal for a Directive on Single-Member Companies is completely devoid of co-determination regulations. As such, it could have potentially disastrous consequences. By Joachim F. Tornau mehr ...

An assault on supervisory boards

The European Commission’s proposal to amend the Shareholder Rights Directive in favour of shareholders would undermine the role of supervisory boards with employee representatives. By Sebastian Sick mehr ...

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Breaking new ground again

Eight years after the Allianz Group became a European Company, management and employee representatives have negotiated a revised set of co-determination rules. They can be rightly proud of the result. By Joachim F. Tornau mehr ...

“Benefiting from our expertise”

Sebastian Sick works as a corporate law expert for the Hans Böckler Foundation. He speaks to us about his contribution to SAP SE’s co-determination agreement and an ongoing dispute about a point of law. Sebastian Sick was interviewed by Margarete Hasel mehr ...

The real-life drama of austerity

According to the general consensus at a workshop on European collective bargaining policy organised by the WSI and ver.di, what we need is to promote steady growth rather than simply standing by and watching as the State falls apart. By Jeannette Goddar mehr ...

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Global trade unions send out a strong signal

At the ITUC congress, trade union members from countries where workers are under threat called for the support of the International Trade Union Confederation. 1,500 delegates from 161 countries attended the conference held in Berlin in mid-May. By Jeannette Goddar mehr ...

How smart services are changing the face of work

In the modern service economy, people are increasingly making money from information-based services connected with the different ways in which products are used. By Bernd Bienzeisler mehr ...

“Providing more targeted support”

IG Metall Board member Wolfgang Lemb discusses the new IG Metall office in Brussels and his frustration with the German coalition government’s policy on Europe. mehr ...

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All we can do now is turn out and vote

There is much about Europe that the trade unions aren’t happy with. Nonetheless, they are campaigning for a more democratic and assertive European Parliament in the run-up to the elections on 25 May. By Stefan Scheytt mehr ...

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"A big step forward"

Lowell Turner is an American industrial sociologist at Cornell University and a partner of the Hans Böckler Foundation. He speaks with us about the enemies of the trade union movement and his optimism that Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant will soon get its works council. mehr ...

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A campaign of intimidation tips the balance

Following a very narrow defeat in the trade union elections at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee, US auto union UAW is now considering its next move with IG Metall and the VW works council. By CHRISTOF WALDKAUF and ANNE GRAEF mehr ...

The hunt for a new generation of works council members

The rising average age of many works councils is a time bomb that has already started ticking. A major generation change is set to occur by 2018, if not before. By Jürgen Prott mehr ...

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Time for the government to start taking responsibility for social policy again

Even the pension reforms planned by Germany’s grand coalition government will make little real difference to a policy that is ultimately geared towards extending people’s working lives. By Joachim F. Tornau mehr ...

“We definitely need more protection”

NGG union leader Michaela Rosenberger says that “it might be worth contemplating making works council elections compulsory” in order to protect employees who wish to establish works councils and halt the erosion of codetermination. mehr ...

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The factory on Europe’s fringes

Romania’s largest chemicals company, Oltchim, is about to be declared insolvent. Its fate is that of many state-owned businesses across Eastern Europe as an inappropriate privatisation and economic policy dismantles the country’s industrial fabric. By Silviu Mihai mehr ...

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Anytime, anywhere

Smartphones and tablets are the key to mobile working, but companies are not regulating their use, and ergonomic considerations are often marginal. By Marc von Lüpke mehr ...

Part of the crowd

Its advocates portray a brave new world in which, thanks to global networking, we’ll all be working when and where we choose in future. We drop in on the digital assembly line. By Andreas Kraft mehr ...

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“Get offline!”

Occupational health expert Michael Kastner explains why we find it difficult to manage the modern working world, how technology is changing our brains, and how we can learn to tackle complexity and change. mehr ...

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No entry

In early September, our author was due to visit representatives of the UAW trade union and civil society groups in Detroit. But on the orders of the USA’s Department of Homeland Security, he wasn’t even allowed to board the plane in Berlin. By Lukas Franke mehr ...

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“As an Italian I’m allowed to say this.”

Italian philosopher and Germany expert Angelo Bolaffi explains why he thinks that it is not just inevitable but also desirable for Germany to take a leading role in Europe. mehr ...

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“The big time is yet to come”

Eicke R. Weber is Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Freiburg. He talks to us about the industrial policy measures that he believes are needed to support one of the technologies of the future. mehr ...

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The lights are going out in “Solar Valley”

For a time, solar panel production was Germany’s fastest-growing industry. Now, it has suffered an equally spectacular decline. Where did the country’s industrial policy go wrong? We visit Thuringia to investigate. By Jörn Boewe and Johannes Schulten mehr ...

Shipyard management under pressure

Following the death of two contract workers from Romania, pressure from IG Metall and the government of the federal state of Lower Saxony has resulted in the Papenburg-based Meyer Werft shipyard signing a company collective agreement that extends co-determination to contract workers and tackles the abuse of subcontractor agreements. By Marc von Lüpke-Schwarz mehr ...

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“We weren’t negotiating freely”

John Fetherston, a trade union official at the GM subsidiary Opel-Vauxhall, talks about the difficulty of being a union representative, about managers who are only too ready to break agreements, and about the importance of maintaining solidarity in the company’s European Works Council. mehr ...

New three-way relationships

An entire new sector is springing up, made up of companies providing industry-related services. But it’s a sector in which employers and unions rarely have any kind of relationship. The upshot is fragmentation of collective bargaining provision. By Markus Helfen mehr ...

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“A new understanding of social partnership”

Wolfgang Schroeder is a political scientist currently serving as State Secretary in the federal state of Brandenburg. He discusses the crisis affecting industry-wide collective agreements, the decline in the membership of employers’ associations and his ideas about what can be done to counteract these trends. mehr ...

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Europe needs to take a longer view

Gesine Schwan gives an academic and policy response to Martin Höpner’s call for “all options [for the future of the Euro] to be on the table.” mehr ...

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VW builds more than just cars

Large companies in Germany have either drastically reduced their stock of workers’ housing or done away with it altogether. Volkswagen, though, is providing more housing for its employees. By Stefan Scheytt mehr ...

“The government just needs to have the political will.”

Wolfgang Uellenberg-van Dawen talks about increasingly insecure employment conditions in Germany’s service sector and the scope for changing course towards fair employment and good services after the federal elections. mehr ...

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“Works councils need binding rights”

Yasmin Fahimi, an official with Germany’s mining, chemicals and energy union IG BCE, explains why reform of company-level co-determination is a key issue in the country’s forthcoming parliamentary elections. mehr ...

Finding a new way of regulating employment

Extracts from speeches by Michael Sommer mehr ...

To organise or to marginalise?

While the trade unions stand up for the weakest people in our society, they are also concerned about them being used to bring in lower standards through the back door. Both sides could benefit from a more proactive approach to tackling this dilemma. By Ludger Pries mehr ...

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The man who fought for agency workers’ rights – and won

A works council in Central Franconia has made legal history. Workers’ representatives at Electrolux have won the right for agency workers to be included in the company’s workforce when it comes to works council elections. By Joachim F. Tornau mehr ...

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Tax games for big boys

Major international corporations are taking increasingly aggressive action to avoid paying tax – and in a digital age, it is becoming more and more difficult to force them to pay up. By Lukas Grasberger mehr ...

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Zero tolerance of organised crime

Employees are bearing the brunt of breaches of cartel legislation. Works council chairs in the Rail and Elevator Technology business areas report on the “bitterness and pain” this organised crime is causing. By Cornelia Girndt mehr ...

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A natural battleground

Misinterpretation of compliance requirements can pose a significant threat to the integrity of digital data. In the worst case scenario, employers can use data protection compliance as a pretext for pandering to their age-old obsession with monitoring their employees. By Katja Schmidt mehr ...

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“Democracy must be part and parcel of Germany’s daily working life”

Germany’s President, Joachim Gauck, linked the eightieth anniversary of the Nazis’ crushing of trade unions on 2 May 1933 with an appeal to employees to make constructive use of their right to vote in next year’s works council elections. By Margarete Hasel mehr ...

Shitstorm over Chattanooga

At the instigation of IG Metall and the VW group works council, the Volkswagen group is planning to establish a German-style works council at its plant in the southern United States. The move has incurred the wrath of America’s anti-union lobby. By Bernd Kupilas mehr ...

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“The UAW has learned a lot from its mistakes”

Social scientist Michael Fichter, 64, went to America to study the problems and potential of the US auto union. mehr ...

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“These unemployment rates are a recipe for disaster!”

Bernadette Ségol, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), talks to Mitbestimmung about short-sighted financial policy, trade union solidarity and her fight to make the European Union more than just a free trade area. mehr ...

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Industrial policy lacks a strategy

Countries with a strong industrial base have weathered the recession better than those without. Even the European Commission is convinced, and has reversed its policy of not promoting industrial policy. But its tools are inconsistent and uncoordinated. By Bernd Lange mehr ...

Agenda 2010 by the back door

A number of momentous decisions are being lined up for the EU summit in June, aimed at making labour market and welfare reforms based on the German model compulsory throughout the eurozone. The trade unions fear welfare cuts and an attack on the right to free collective bargaining. By Eric Bonse mehr ...

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“We need to act damn quickly”

Raymond Torres, Director of the ILO’s International Institute for Labour Studies in Geneva, explains why governments share the blame for the European employment crisis and why young people need a job guarantee and single parents should receive more protection. mehr ...

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“Germany is a land of commodities”

Germany has plentiful supplies of coal, salt, rock, limestone and clay, and its commodity shortage is confined to a few specific materials. Minerals companies are currently prospecting for new mines and reopening old ones. By Stefan Scheytt mehr ...

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“Shining a spotlight on dreadful conditions”

Heiner Reimann, a trade union secretary at the services union ver.di, tells Mitbestimmung about his experiences with Amazon, a recent German TV report on the mail order sector, and using the internet as an organising platform. mehr ...

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Anti-union practices at DHL

DHL is the world’s largest logistics company. Wholly owned by Deutsche Post, it respects union rights at its sites in Europe, but the picture is quite different elsewhere in the world, and there is now a wave of complaints from Colombia. By Knut Henkel mehr ...

“The DHL Board’s behaviour is completely incomprehensible”

Andrea Kocsis, Deputy Chair of the services union ver.di and head of its Postal Services, Freight and Logistics division, talks about the anti-union practices at DHL in Latin America. mehr ...

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Katja Rietzler on the right strategy for the countries hit by the Euro crisis

“If we are to find a long-term solution to the Eurozone crisis, we must extend the strategy of consolidation over a much longer period.” mehr ...

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A vicious cycle of ‘social dumping’

Ford, PSA and Opel are closing plants in Europe and forcing concessions from workers in the crisis-hit countries of Southern Europe. The union federation industriALL Europe fears a vicious cycle of ‘social dumping’ in relation to pay and working conditions. By Mario Müller mehr ...

“A response to economic and social crises”

Historian Anne Sudrow on the roots of the collective economy, the collapse of Germany’s social economy, and the future of alternative economic models mehr ...

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Beleaguered by the crisis

Workers at the European Central Bank in Frankfurt are complaining of burn-out and working conditions that are harming their health. They have seen their workload soar as a result of the Eurozone crisis, but they have hardly any codetermination rights. By Renate Hebauf mehr ...

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Authoritarian and unsocial

Workers and unions have little hope of any benefits from the new system of European economic governance, which gives Brussels the power to harmonise the levels of competitiveness of EU Member States. By Florian Rödl mehr ...

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“These are classic Agenda 2010 measures”

First of all they make ordinary people pay for the losses of the financial crisis, then they take away their rights too - Michael Sommer talks about the lack of basic justice in the euro crisis. mehr ...

European wages - the race to the bottom

The harsh conditions imposed by the EU Commission, the ECB and the IMF are reducing wages and causing the disintegration of collective agreement systems.
By Thorsten Schulten mehr ...

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Here comes the swarm

The future has arrived: social media now enable everyone to have a say, and mass communications have changed beyond recognition. IG Metall-Jugend, the youth arm of the German metalworkers’ union, now has an audience of millions on Facebook. By Andreas Kraft mehr ...

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When Communists go shopping

Anxiety was running high among employees of Swabian construction equipment manufacturer Putzmeister, when, in a surprise move, the company was sold to the Chinese Sany Group at the beginning of the year. By Gesa von Leesen mehr ...

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industriAll has arrived

The new European trade union federation industriAll brings together a total of 197 trade unions and aims to work towards a robust industrial policy accompanied by a change of course within the EU. By Eric Bonse mehr ...

How companies keep works councils out

German employers are more likely to put obstacles in the way of setting up new works councils than to hamper the work of existing ones. Mitbestimmung reports on the initial findings of a WSI survey of full-time trade union officials. By Martin Behrens and Heiner Dribbusch mehr ...

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Spying on the works council

Private detectives posing as employees eavesdropped on conversations to gather evidence against the Chair of one works council. But he fought back. By Andreas Kraft mehr ...

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"Crazy relationships"

Business ethics expert Ulrich Thielemann talks about worrying trends in income distribution and applying the principle of fairness to pay bargaining. more...

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More Europe, but different

There is an urgent need to rectify the current structural deficits in EU economic policy – including the system of competing national states that has put wages and taxation policy under such massive pressure. An alternative policy on growth and borrowing could potentially overcome the euro crisis. By Klaus Busch more...

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Staying non-unionised by all means possible

US subsidiary T-Mobile is resorting to cruder tactics than many all-American companies in its campaign to resist trade unions. Just 15 employees out of a workforce of 37,000 are members of the telecoms union, CWA. By Stephan Scheytt more...

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