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“Better, Not Cheaper”. A German Trade Union Campaign and its Effects for Works Councils and Union Power

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Abstract:

In the last years a lot of stories were told about organising campaigns of unions in the UK, the United States or Australia. In these “liberal market economies” unions have developed new strategies to gain - or to regain - organisational power on the shop floor by campaigning, movement unionism or rank-and-file participation. At the same time, little is known about strategies of union revitalisation in “coordinated market economies” like Germany, although in Germany the crisis of union power is far from being less severe. The decline of union density from above 30% to less than 20% in the last 15 years tells its own tale. And in many plants unions and works councils are on the defensive, dealing with problems like employers who want to leave the employers’ associations, like threats of outsourcing and off-shoring or like demands of employers for derogations from collective bargaining agreements.
The defensive provoked unions to think about new ways to regain power on the shop floor. One of these ways is to learn from the UK or US examples of union organising. However, the “liberal” types of organising are not always in line with the still more “coordinated” institutional structures of German industrial relations and especially with the institution of the formally independent works councils. Therefore, new ways of organising have been developed that are based on the activation of works councils both vis-à-vis management and vis-à-vis the employees as potential union members. The most prominent campaign of this kind is the campaign “Better, not cheaper” that is in process in the metalworking industry for several years.
In my paper and my presentation I will outline the results of a current research project about the effects of the “Better, Not Cheaper” campaign on politics and power of works councils and the union. The project will be finished at the end of 2010, so that I can present fresh insights into a vital problem of German industrial relations. In the project we conducted several interviews with union experts, made 17 plant level case studies and carried out a survey among local union officials in Northrhine-Westfalia. Some of the results for the time being are that the campaign is applied above all in cases of union defensive, that developing alternatives to management concepts is improving the power of works councils, that the support by the union and by external experts plays a crucial role at this, that the legitimacy of works councils and unions is increased by rank-and-file participation and that strengthening the works councils on the one and strengthening the union on the other hand are different stories.
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Association:
Name: Eighteenth International Conference of the Council for European Studies
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http://www.ces.columbia.edu


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p485657_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Haipeter, Thomas. "“Better, Not Cheaper”. A German Trade Union Campaign and its Effects for Works Councils and Union Power" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Eighteenth International Conference of the Council for European Studies, Various University Venues, Barcelona, Spain, <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p485657_index.html>

APA Citation:

Haipeter, T. "“Better, Not Cheaper”. A German Trade Union Campaign and its Effects for Works Councils and Union Power" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Eighteenth International Conference of the Council for European Studies, Various University Venues, Barcelona, Spain <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p485657_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: In the last years a lot of stories were told about organising campaigns of unions in the UK, the United States or Australia. In these “liberal market economies” unions have developed new strategies to gain - or to regain - organisational power on the shop floor by campaigning, movement unionism or rank-and-file participation. At the same time, little is known about strategies of union revitalisation in “coordinated market economies” like Germany, although in Germany the crisis of union power is far from being less severe. The decline of union density from above 30% to less than 20% in the last 15 years tells its own tale. And in many plants unions and works councils are on the defensive, dealing with problems like employers who want to leave the employers’ associations, like threats of outsourcing and off-shoring or like demands of employers for derogations from collective bargaining agreements.
The defensive provoked unions to think about new ways to regain power on the shop floor. One of these ways is to learn from the UK or US examples of union organising. However, the “liberal” types of organising are not always in line with the still more “coordinated” institutional structures of German industrial relations and especially with the institution of the formally independent works councils. Therefore, new ways of organising have been developed that are based on the activation of works councils both vis-à-vis management and vis-à-vis the employees as potential union members. The most prominent campaign of this kind is the campaign “Better, not cheaper” that is in process in the metalworking industry for several years.
In my paper and my presentation I will outline the results of a current research project about the effects of the “Better, Not Cheaper” campaign on politics and power of works councils and the union. The project will be finished at the end of 2010, so that I can present fresh insights into a vital problem of German industrial relations. In the project we conducted several interviews with union experts, made 17 plant level case studies and carried out a survey among local union officials in Northrhine-Westfalia. Some of the results for the time being are that the campaign is applied above all in cases of union defensive, that developing alternatives to management concepts is improving the power of works councils, that the support by the union and by external experts plays a crucial role at this, that the legitimacy of works councils and unions is increased by rank-and-file participation and that strengthening the works councils on the one and strengthening the union on the other hand are different stories.


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Labour Power Measured by Power-Indices and Its Effects on German Companies

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