Germany: FAU welcomes challenge to law attacking small unions

Anarcho-syndicalist union FAU has welcomed legal action from the German Association of Journalists (DJV) and pilot’s union Cockpit as the campaign to try and knock down a controversial Bargaining Unit Act designed to shut down small unions, known as the Tarifeinheitsgesetz (TEG), grows.

The Act, which was passed in 2015, says that in an industry with more than one union agreements made with the largest union will take priority. Before its introduction, it was possible for different unions to win different agreements for workers within the same industry, encouraging groups to “one-up” each other in workplaces and rewarding effective tactics.

Smaller unions, including FAU, have been up in arms about TEG, saying it effectively functions as a union-busting initiative because it gives a monopolistic franchise to bigger TUC-style unions which feel threatened by smaller, more militant groups. In one widely-cited example, the militant rail union GDL, which has a strong presence in engineers and conductors, would find itself unable to win any concessions above those won by the far less militant but much larger EVG, which has a higher absolute number of members in the industry.

In a statement on Wednesday FAU strikes working group representative Pablo Rastenes said:

The TEG can be seen as a direct response to successful militancy by small unions, among others in the rail sector in 2014. The initiative for the TEG was brought by the Federation of Employers (BDA) and the big DGB unions [DGB is equivalent to Britain’s TUC].

The fact the unions made common cause with the BDA can only be seen as an expression of their fear of having to suffer further losses of members and of losing their monopoly status.

FAU has followed the development since its first discussions with concern and mobilised against this joint venture of DGB and BDA — and later against the legislative process of the Ministry of Labour under Andrea Nahles.

The campaign reached its climax with a the nationwide demonstration of the action alliance “Hands off the strike – for full trade union freedom of action” on April 18th 2015 in Frankfurt. It was the peak of the GDL strike and the KiTa strikes of Ver.di, and just before the TEG was adopted in the summer by the Bundestag.

The FAU appeals to all workers and trade unions, not only for the well-being of their own members but for all wage earners, regardless of the outcome of the proceedings, to show solidarity and take action against any future restriction on the freedom of association and trade union freedom.

Regardless of how the Constitutional Court will decide in the coming months, the recommendation of labour lawyer Dr. Rolf Geffken made at that militant demonstration in Frankfurt holds true: “The best defence against the restriction of the right to strike will be the strike itself!”

[Edited machine translation of original FAU article]

In their legal arguments, DJV and Cockpit say the Act is incompatible with Basic Law (Germany’s constitution), as it conflicts with the guarantee for bargaining autonomy (Article 9 Par 3).