Preliminary results of the 1998 works council elections

A large majority of the works councillors elected in around 33,000 German companies in spring 1998 are members of trade unions affiliated to the DGB confederation.

Between 1 March and 31 May 1998, works council elections took place in approximately 33,000 German companies. According to the Works Constitution Act §§ 13 (Betriebsverfassungsgesetz), works council elections should be held every four years.

On behalf of the German Federation of Trade Unions (Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, DGB) and the union-related Hans-Böckler Foundation, the Kassel-based Social Science Institute (Büro für Sozialforschung) has conducted a first evaluation of the 1998 works council election s. Its Trend report on 1998 works council elections (Trendreport Betriebsrätewahlen '98) is based on a survey of around 1,000 companies and, therefore, has to be taken more as an approximation than as a 100%-correct account of the election results, which are not fully available at the moment.

According to the study's findings, a great majority (83%) of the elected works councillors are members of a DGB-affiliated union, while only 3% are members of other unions and about 14% have no union membership at all. In comparison with the last works council elections in 1994, this means a decline of approximately two percentage points for DGB members in favour of an increase of non-union members. What has often been seen in the past, however, is that during a term in office up to one-third of the original non-union organised works councillors become members of a DGB-affiliated union.

The influence of the DGB unions on the composition of the works councils is particularly strong in larger companies. For example, in the German automobile industry the IG Metall metalworkers' union, gained nearly 88% of all works council seats (see the table below). The Mining, Chemical and Energy Union (Industriegewerkschaft Bergbau Chemie, Energie, IG BCE) declared that it gained 88.5% of all works council seats in the relatively concentrated mining, chemical and energy industry.

As far as the occupational and gender composition of works councils is concerned, the majority of works councillors are still male blue-collar workers. The number of white-collar workers has been constantly increasing and has now reached a proportion of 34% in the metalworking industry and about 64% in service companies. The number of female works councillors has been more or less stagnating at less than a quarter of all employee representatives while, furthermore, a significant number of companies still have no female works council members at all.

According to the DGB vice-president, Ursula Engelen-Kefer, the recent election results are a "clear sign of the high acceptance of works councils as employee representatives" and support "the trade unions' policy for more co-determination and participation." However, Ms Engelen-Kefer also stated that the low number of female works councillors elected is not acceptable, and called on the government to find a practicable provision which can secure a certain quota for female representation.

Results of the 1998 works council elections in the German automobile industry
Company No. of works councillors elected No. of works councillors who are members of IG Metall IG Metall members as % of all works councillors
Total 1,537 1,347 87.6%
Porsche 48 46 95.8%
BMW 225 209 92.9%
Opel 122 112 91.8%
Volkswagen 226 207 91.6%
Audi 76 68 89.5%
Ford 83 72 86.7%
Daimler-Benz 757 635 83.9%

Source: IG Metall 1998.

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