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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL #281 - Germany: Basic unionism against co-management (fr, it, pt) [machine translation]

Date Sun, 1 Apr 2018 09:07:35 +0300

Across the Rhine, faced with the explosion of poverty and precariousness, fighting practices exist, in society and in companies, despite the weight of large bureaucratic organizations. The point by Willy Hajek, libertarian syndicalist. ---- From France, Germany can have the image of a country where the social conflict is relatively weak because, among other things, its good economic health. This and its low unemployment rate are, indeed, rehashed by the media in France. But the reality is quite different: more and more precarious jobs, in all sectors of society, among workers and workers, but also among Siemens engineers or employees of the university. ---- Poverty in Germany is growing, especially in big cities like Berlin and industrial areas like the Ruhr. Anyone who knows a little bit about Berlin's popular neighborhoods, like Neukölln or Wedding, is always surprised at the visibility of this poverty on the street, in and around metro stations or in other public spaces.

At the same time, housing prices exploded in the same city. Movements against evictions and rent increases are legion and very combative. Housing insecurity and the danger of homelessness have become a real threat for many families with and without jobs.

The number of temporary employees is constantly increasing. It represents 8% of workers and workers at Mercedes, 40% at BMW. There are also temporary work at Volkswagen (VW) in Hanover, in particular, to impose their hiring on permanent contracts. The IG Metall union does not support them because this fight is initiated from the ground up and does not correspond to the interests of the trade union leaders. The main union representatives at VW earn as much as the managers of the company. It is a closed, corrupt world, cut off from the concerns of employees.

40% of temporary workers at BMW

Admittedly, employees of the German metal industry will have the right to reduce their working time to 28 hours a week, thanks to a branch agreement signed in early February 2018, between the IG Metall union and the employers. But, moreover, precariousness increases with the complicity of the trade union bureaucracies. The DGB union will support a Merkel government with the SPD. It is also about a Minister of Labor from the ranks of IG Metall. That is to say.

Yet, at the base, there is a real fighting spirit. We have recently experienced the mass demonstrations against the G20 in Hamburg, despite the police violence and the hunt for activists. Police everywhere are posting photos of protesters in the city calling on the population to report. Those responsible for these measures are Social Democrats and the Greens (the Minister of Justice is a member of the Green Party).

On the other hand, there are locally, almost everywhere, movements and activities of solidarity with refugees, with temporary workers, immigrant and private workers.

On the weekend of January 7, in Dessau, 5,000 people demonstrated to pay tribute to Oury Jalloh, who was murdered in a police station thirteen years ago. His mattress had been burned in the cell where he was being held in police custody. A dismissal for the police was pronounced.

Alongside this daily combativity in society, conflictuality does not spare companies. Admittedly, it is necessary to recognize this German specificity which gives a particular role to the unions in the exercise of the co-management with the federal State. The union landscape is dominated by IG Metall for industry and Ver.di for public service, the most influential and wealthy unions, with a bureaucratic apparatus unimaginable in France.

We saw it during the pollution scandal at Volkswagen. In the VW factories, most union delegates campaign against those (American capitals according to them) who would destroy Volkswagen. A T-shirt with the label " We are all Volkswagen " was distributed free of charge by IG Metall, thousands of employees wore them during a general assembly: this is concretely the expression of co-management and complicity with criminal bosses. Fortunately, lawyers, environmental initiatives and journalists engage in this struggle to find officials and reveal the truth of the facts.

Nevertheless, Ver.di, which has 2 million members, includes a fairly militant trade union left wing and groups of young trade union activists.

Exemplary fight at Amazon

The most advanced sector of the fight is currently the hospital, where the situation is quite catastrophic. There is understaffing everywhere and the main demand is to have more staff. It began in Berlin at Charité Hospital (12,000 employees), and in all regions of Germany the hospital sector is in motion. Several unions (Ver.di, but also categorical unions - doctors, nurses) are able to mobilize and create a balance of power. But the most important is that there is a societal debate on privatization and especially the pricing of care. Doctors' organizations are very involved in this social movement.

This combative unionism has led some exemplary struggles in recent years on the issue of precariousness. This is the case, in particular, of employees of Amazon: for three years, there is a struggle in this multinational, organized by Ver.di to obtain a collective agreement. The boss of Amazon refuses. There are many actions to lobby. So far, nothing has been achieved, but during these three years, young workers have discovered grassroots unionism, building a union network at all Amazon factories in Germany. They meet regularly to discuss their experiences. At the same time, transnational coordination was established with unions at Amazon in Poland, France and Germany.

These practices at Amazon are a practical example of the ideas of Transnationals Information Exchange (Tie) [1]for a different unionism. This inter-union network is an idea of grassroots unionists a few years ago to create transnational trade union networks in the automotive, textile and trade sectors, as at Amazon, in the transport sector such as the railway, around the question of mobility. In the network " Rail without borders There has been cooperation with railwaymen and railway workers all over the world for many years. At the moment, there are activities to support the fight of temporary workers at Volkswagen in China, such as actions in front of Volkswagen headquarters in Germany or pressure on the management of IG Metall to intervene. Even in Germany, struggles and international solidarity are not empty words.

Willy Hajek (Berlin)

[1] www.tie-germany.org

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