New IG Metall initiative to improve trade union cooperation in Europe

In June 1997, IG Metall launched a regional exchange on collective bargaining policy with metalworking unions from neighbouring European states.

On 26 June 1997 the Northrhine-Westphalia (NRW) district office of Germany's IG Metall metalworkers' union for the first time invited its colleagues from Dutch and Belgium metalworking unions to join a meeting of the regional collective bargaining commission (Tarifkommission). The commission is the trade union's decision-making body on collective bargaining strategy, as well as on the final adoption of collective agreements.

According to the head of IG Metall's NRW district, Harald Schartau, there is a growing need to improve transnational trade union cooperation on collective bargaining. Otherwise, in a more and more economically integrated Europe and under the conditions of a Economic and Monetary Union, there will be a growing competition between national wages and working conditions which could ultimately lead to a downward spiral of social standards.

As a first step, IG Metall in NRW has now taken the initiative for an even closer cooperation with the metalworking unions in Belgium and the Netherlands. It is planned that there will be a regular exchange of information on collective bargaining issues, and mutual participation of national bargaining experts as observers in the actual bargaining policy of their neighbour countries. The latter will give the trade unionists involved the chance to obtain a practical insight into the still very different national systems of collective bargaining, and into the day-to-day work of the national unions.

Similar initiatives are currently being discussed in other regional IG Metall districts. As the vice-president of IG Metall,Walter Riester, declared, it is the unions' ultimate aim that all regional districts will have a kind of partnership agreement with metalworking unions from other European countries. Even though the development of European collective agreements seems to be rather unrealistic in the near future, the IG Metall initiative could become a major step towards bringing a European dimension to German collective bargaining policy.

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