Unions agree further steps towards combined service sector union

In February 1998, six German trade unions published a draft of a common "political platform" which provides concrete details of the plans for the establishment of a new single union organisation in the service sector.

On 24 February 1998 six German service sector trade unions published a common draft for a "political platform on the restructuring of trade union representation of interests in the service sector" (Politische Plattform zur Neustrukturierung der gewerkschaftlichen Interessenvertretung im Dienstleistungsbereich). The unions concerned are:

  • the Public Services, Transport and Traffic Union (Gewerkschaft Öffentliche Dienste, Transport und Verkehr, ÖTV.);
  • the Media Union (IG Medien),
  • the Commerce, Banking and Insurance Union (Gewerkschaft Handel Banken und Versicherungen, HBV);
  • the Post Workers' Union (Deutsche Postgewerkschaft, DPG);
  • the Teachers and Science Union (Gewerkschaft Erziehung Wissenschaft, GEW); and
  • the German White-Collar Workers' Union (Deutsche Angestellten-Gewerkschaft, DAG).

The presidents of the six unions had signed a general declaration on restructuring the trade union organisations in the service sector in October 1997 (DE9710233F),and the newly-adopted draft for a common political platform aims to put the reorganisation plans into concrete terms. Therefore, the document contains several proposals for the basic political and organisational principles of a new merged service sector trade union organisation, as well as a concrete schedule for further steps in the restructuring process.

According to the platform, the main reasons for a new trade union organisation in the service sector are as follows:

  • better adaptation to structural changes in the economy including the organisation of newly developing branches;
  • the avoidance of detrimental trade union competition;
  • a concentration of trade union resources against the background of falling membership and growing financial problems; and
  • better regional and local union representation

Regarding organisational principles, the political platform states that within a new service sector union there should remain specific decision structures for the various professions, branches or sectors. All unions involved agree there should be no centralised "super-union", but that the new common organisation should be based on strong decentralised organisational units.

With the draft political platform, the unions involved are starting a broad internal discussion process. A coordination committee (Lenkungsausschuß) involving the presidents and other board members of the six unions will be created to accompany the process of reorganisation. Furthermore, to coordinate policy on certain tasks or within particular sectors among the unions, various working groups will be established.

Finally, the platform contains the following schedule for the timing of the restructuring process:

  • by the end of May 1998, all executive boards of the unions involved should have given their official support to the political platform;
  • by December 1998. the unions should have agreed on a concrete model for the new union organisation;
  • by the end of 1999, all participating unions should have held their congresses to decide on the new organisation; and
  • from the beginning of 2000, the actual reorganisation and merging process should start.

At the end of the process there would be a new German service sector union with about 3.7 million members (on current figures) which, it is claimed, would become the biggest single union in the world.

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