German cabinet passes bill to curb strike power of small unions

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

plenary_326-dataThe German government has approved draft legislation to limit the power of small labor unions whose strikes have paralyzed train and air traffic in recent months, by making a wage deal with the largest union in a company applicable to all employees.

"We are reinforcing the majority principle," said Labor Minister Andrea Nahles, after Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet approved the bill on Thursday morning, sending it to parliament for debate early next year.

Nahles said that the power of smaller unions to force company-wide stoppages of pay and conditions threatened Germany's generally harmonious labor relations.

Industry bodies have called for a change in the law to stop unions like Cockpit, which represents about 5,400 pilots at Lufthansa, from being able to halt the entire operations of a company that employs more than 110,000 people.

The GDL train driver union's strikes at state-run railway Deutsche Bahn in recent months have affected 5.5 billion people who travel by rail each day as well as industries that rely on rail freight like automakers, chemical companies and steel producers.

Economists estimate the rail strikes have cost the economy up to 100 million euros a day by forcing assembly lines to suspend activity because of supply shortages.

The striking pilots and train drivers have been pilloried in the media for stranding travelers on holiday weekends and even Merkel, who usually remains silent on industrial disputes, has urged the train drivers to act responsibly.

However, her government was eager to avoid the bill – drawn up by the labor ministry, which is run by Merkel's center-left Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners – from looking like an attack on workers' rights.

"The unified tariff regulation does not affect the right to industrial action," reads the draft law. The president of Cockpit, Ilja Schulz, said it was unlawful and was bound to be "shipwrecked" when challenged in the constitutional court.

This action is aimed to be able to control labor relations by controlling the large trade unions, via the DGB, the German Trades Union Congress.

Much like the British TUC in the 1920s agreed to stop the General Strike which was started to aid the striking miners in the Scottish coalfields and others, thus stabbing the miners in the back, this legislation is aimed to be able to do the very same to small trade unions during a labor dispute. They too were enforcing the majority principle and by more or less buying the TUC they won against the miners in Fife and other areas of Britain.

It won't be long before strikes will be made illegal, and not just those by the small labor unions. There are things to this effect already in the offing at least in Britain and they, no doubt, are also being played with in other EU member states, in the same way that they are playing with the idea of making even peaceful protests illegal.

The system, which is dying and in its death throes, unfortunately is not prepared to go quietly and in dying it is prepared to take as many as possible with it. They have seen George Orwell's book “1984” as a manual rather than as a warning, what it is meant to be.

© 2015