Date: Fri, 10 Oct 97 09:44:54 CDT
From: rich@pencil (Rich Winkel)
Subject: German Unions Merge
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** Topic: German Unions Merge **
** Written 4:57 PM Oct 9, 1997 by labornews in **
/* Written 8:01 AM Oct 7, 1997 by in igc:labr.newsline */
/* ---------- "GERMAN UNIONS MERGE" ---------- */

German Unions Merge

ICEM Update, No.59, 7 October 1997

More than a million German workers have united in the new Mining, Chemical and Energy Industrial Union (IG BCE). The union formally comes into existence this week at its Congress in Hannover. IG BCE, which organises across a wide range of process, energy and extractive sectors, is affiliated at the global level to the 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM).

Elected as IG BCE's first President this afternoon was Hubertus Schmoldt, who is Vice-President of the ICEM. Up to the present, he chaired the chemical, paper and ceramic workers' union, now merging with the mining and energy workers and the leather worke rs to form IG BCE. Unemployment remains the main social problem in Germany, Schmoldt told the Congress yesterday. That's why our collective bargaining policy has focussed on job security AND income security. This would continue, he emphasised, but our policy of employm ent security must not be used by others for a backdoor redistribution away from the workers. Otherwise, conflicts would be inevitable. Purchasing power was determined not only by collective bargaining, but also by fiscal policy.

Schmoldt restated the German unions' commitment to the social state and the social market economy—concepts that have come under attack of late from sections of German business and politics.

He also emphasised the new union's strong international commitment: Social responsibility, social justice, employment, education and training, the abolition of child labour, equal rights and opportunities and trade union freedom—these are just some of the basic preconditions for a world worth living in. Through our international and European cooperation, we want to make our contribution to achieving them ... Worldwide, we must combine our trade union strengths. Let us struggle jointly for new thinking and new action.

Other speakers at the opening session included Oskar Lafontaine, President of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD); Joschka Fischer, Chairman of the environmentalist Buendnis 90/Gruene group in the Bundestag (lower house of the German federal parliame nt); Bundestag President Rita Suessmuth; and ICEM General Secretary Vic Thorpe. Faced with the globalisation of capital, trade unions now had just two options, Thorpe said: One is to remain essentially national-based organisations and to acquiesce in our own demise—to become, in essence, mere doorkeepers for capitalism. The other is redefine our movement to be able to intervene at the new global level where the decisions are made that affect our members and the communities in which they live. Here, today, you are redefining a significant part of the German labour movement. It is a n enormous boost to the work of the ICEM to know that this redefinition includes from the outset a determinedly international consciousness.

Lafontaine announced that the SPD will create a new alliance for jobs with the unions and others if Germans vote the party into federal power next year. The likelihood of that is growing. The SPD is currently in parliamentary opposition to Chancellor He lmut Kohl's faltering right-of-centre government. A society that aims at demolishing the social state and which accepts without demur the unjust distribution of the fruits of our joint efforts is not the society that we want, Lafontaine said. We want a society that gets back to social responsibility and community of purpose.

This morning, the Congress heard the report on activities from Hans Berger, ICEM President and until now President of one of IG BCE's constituents, the German mining and energy workers' union. The Congress continues until Friday, including three congresses on Thursday to wind up the affairs of the merging unions.