3 minutes de lecture

par Planet labor

In the past few years, the number of strikes – usually spectacular – has slightly increased in Germany. However, compared to other countries, it is still a country hardly affected by strikes. These are the main conclusions of the 2008 edition of the tariff manual of the WSI Institute of Economic and Social Science of the Hans Böckler Foundation, close to unions, presented on April 29, 2008 in Berlin.

According to Heiner Dribbusch, who wrote the analysis, the recent increase in the number of strike was even more noticeable because it came after a long period of social stability at the end of the 1990s. « Some hints show that this phase is coming to an end. Which does not mean that Germany has become a strike Republic », Mr. Dribbusch explained. 2006 and 2007 have been hit by important strikes, and the trend is still on for 2008. Therefore, the warning strikes in the steel industry and the public service at the beginning of the year gathered more than 470.000 people. According to the author of the study, this phenomenon can be explained by the fact that employees are more prone to strike.

The researcher lists three categories of strikes:

  • « Efficient warning strikes », which employers see as a true strike threat. The warning strikes carried out these past few years in the metal sector  and steel sector and in the public service are part of this category.
  • « Offensive strikes » aiming at imposing a specific wage agreement, such as those organized by the small train drivers’ union GDL or by Marburger Bund’s doctors.
  • Finally, « defensive strikes », strongly increasing, to fight, for instance, against an increase in working time, such as the strike at Deutsche Telekom in 2007 , or at the Deutsche Post in 2008 , or even against the closure of a site, like for AEG Nürnberg .

Little appeal to strike. However, Germany remains one of the few countries in the world widely strike-free. Between 1995 and 2006, the number of work days lost because of a strike for an average of 1.000 employees amounted to 3.6 in Germany, as opposed to 203.4 in Canada, 134.8 in Spain, 91.4 in France and 74.3 in Norway. The only country below that figure is Switzerland, with 2.8 days lost. According to Mr. Dribbusch, this low intensity in social conflicts can be explained by the rather restrictive right to strike in Germany (political strikes are forbidden). Other factors can also be taken into account, such as the presence of single unions, which means that there are few of them, the joint management system, as well as the system for industry-wide agreements (Flächentarifverträge), which enable to push the conflicts outside of the company. The analysis ends with a warning: more company agreements (Firmentarifverträge), which employers want, could influence the number and intensity of social conflicts.

Planet Labor, May 14, 2008, No. 080384 – www.planetlabor.com

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