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September 05, 2007

Powerful German Union Elects Moderate

IG Metall, Biggest German Union, Nominates New Head

Germany's powerful IG Metall engineering trade union appears set for greater compromise with industrial and political leaders after the decision by its leadership on Monday to back a moderniser as its next chairman.

The union's executive board proposed Berthold Huber, deputy chairman, as the next leader. Chairman Jürgen Peters, a left-wing hardliner who has clashed with business and government on economic reforms, is to step down at a union congress in November.

There are different schools of thought  on whether or not we see a convergence or divergence of Industrial Relations Systems. I am in the camp that believes we are seeing a convergence and the election of a moderate to head Germany's most powerful union is another sign in that direction.

The response of Western European trade unions to 'globalization' has been interesting. Many US activists used to point to European Unions because they were seen as so much stronger than U.S. unions and were able to maintain pay and benefit levels while U.S. unions were making large concessions.

In reality the European Unions were not more militant or stronger, rather they did not face the same pressures as U.S. unions and were operating under a very different IR system. That has begun to change and if anything when faced with the same pressures European Unions seem less willing to engage in the type of industrial battles seen in the U.K. and U.S. during the 1980's.

***Side note, the UK model of Industrial Relations and UK economic policy are more similar to the U.S. than continental Europe - for Industrial Relation purposes this is referred to as the Anglo-Saxon model

September 5, 2007 in Comparative Labor Relations, Volkswagen | Permalink

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