Betriebsrat und Gesamtbetriebsrat befürworten

Advocating for a factory workers council and a corporation workers council.

Volkswagen’s organizational structure includes the legally-mandatory German committee of workers that is allowed a say in co-managing their workplace: the Betriebsrat. Recently the U.S.’s United Auto Workers union, quietly supported by VW management, tried to “unionize” a factory in Tennessee but was voted down by the workers themselves. U.S. media described it as a vote against union representation, while German media apparently initially reported that the workers had rejected forming a Betriebsrat. They followed up by saying the company had thought unionization was the logical first step for creating a works council at the Chattanooga factory but now they’ll just have to do it another way. “Our employees did not make a decision saying they’re against a Betriebsrat,” plant C.O.O. Frank Fischer reassured German reporters.

Had Chattanooga’s workers voted yes, they would have also gotten a seat on VW’s Gesamtbetriebsrat, apparently a workers’ council for the entire corporation consisting of employees representing VW’s ~105 locations around the world.

Since unionized U.S. auto manufacturing workers were made to seem responsible for the results of inferior car design decisions in the 1970’s, many potential employees appear to not support unions because they fear their own laziness. Fearing your own and others’ laziness seems to be part of the human condition in the U.S. but that fear isn’t as strong in Germany. It’s been interesting to me to see how Germans handle the balance of working hard, <40 hours/week, and then playing hard the rest of the time with a clear conscience, rather than coasting through a twilight lifetime of trying to live at the workplace without sufficient time off.

Süddeutsche.de and Spiegel.de both mentioned that the U.S. has a National Labor Relations Board that must still confirm the plant’s unionization vote and where objections can be filed. U.S. reporting mentioned that U.S. senators are protected under “freedom of opinion” from being sued for spreading disinformation.

(Bet REEBZ rott   oont   gez OMT bet REEBZ rott   beh FIR wort en.)

Betriebsrat

Workers’ council, a committee elected by employees that is involved in management of German workplaces.

Spiegel.de reported on 11 Nov 2013 that Microsoft was not renewing the leases for its offices in Hamburg, Böblingen and Bad Homburg, where ~500 of the company’s ~2700 Germany-based employees work. These workers were to be dispersed into telecommuting as “Homeoffice-Mitarbeiter.”

Labor advocates accused the company was doing this to outflank efforts by the Betriebsrat workers’ councils at those locations to negotiate resolutions to Microsoft’s overtime situation, with workers regularly putting in 50 to 60 hours per week in a country that usually has a work week <40 hours, said overtime “being neither off-celebrated [with time] nor offset [with money].” Celebration is a synonym for time spent not working, in German.

Labor advocates also alleged that Microsoft’s plans to rent conference rooms for future meetings with clients was an attempt to ensure there were never more than four of its employees gathered together in one place at a time because, they said, German law requires Betriebsrat representation for workplaces with five employees or more.

(Beh TREEBZ rah t.)

Werkverträge

“Work contracts” or “service contracts” that pay workers per item or opus rather than per hour, month or annum. Piecework contracts paying per product or service.

In the Bundesrat, Lower Saxony (S.P.D. + Green party), North Rhine-Westphalia (S.P.D. + Green party) and the Saarland (C.D.U. + S.P.D.) announced an initiative to investigate what they said is growing misuse of this type of labor contract, particularly in the meat packing industry. Such workers, estimated at >10,000 in Germany reported tagesschau.de, are said to be being lured in from less prosperous Eastern European countries, treated badly and paid “hunger wages” by German standards. Apparently current German regulations do not provide workers with this type of contract the same protections given to temp workers [Leiharbeiter], such as a guaranteed minimum wage for each hour worked.

Investigators’ complaints about poor treatment include “piecework at hunger wages [instead of the usual higher wages to compensate for piecework’s lack of benefits], inadequate health protection and opaque Werkvertrag contracts given to low-wage foreign workers.”

The governor of Lower Saxony, Stephan Weil (S.P.D.), deemed these contracts “an ulcer on the entire German labor market” and called for them to be banned, saying Werkvertrag workers also need representation in a company’s Betriebsrat, a workers’ committee involved in management. The proposed Bundesrat initiative would mandate that Betriebsrat worker committees must give their approval before Werkvertrag labor can be used in any German company.

Lower Saxony’s government said their state has already passed new rules about shared apartments the companies with questionable Werkvertrag conditions are also renting out to foreign pieceworkers. They now must provide at least 8 square meters per employee-tenant.

(VEH ACK feh TRAY geh.)

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