European super unions on the horizon?

The first steps towards a "Euro-union" were taken in March 1997, as trade unions from the UK and Germany signed the first joint membership agreement.

At the beginning of March the first steps were taken towards the creation of the first "European super union". One of Britain's biggest trade unions, the General, Municipal and Boilermakers' Union (GMB), signed a joint membership agreement with the German chemical workers' union. The deal between the GMB and IG Chemie-Papier-Keramik means that 1.8 million workers will be entitled to joint membership. Although the two unions may not provide the same services, UK workers in Germany can expect legal advice, support from representatives, and training facilities, while German workers in the UK can expect legal advice, health and safety information and financial benefits (Record DE9703206N).

There are those who may view the joint venture with some suspicion, seeing it as a prime example of a European trade unionism reflecting the "European social model", which the UK Conservative Government views as posing a threat to business and competitiveness.

UK unions over the past decade have looked more and more to Europe, not only to provide the social legislation which the UK Government have opposed owing to its labour market policies, but also in a bid to develop closer ties with other European trade unions to match the growing power of multinational companies. The GMB was the first UK union to open an office in Brussels and it has been among the forerunners in pioneering European-style works councils. The union is thought to be talking to unions in other European countries about similar agreements.

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