Every few years, the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) tumbles into a crisis. In 2018 there was Zoff because the chairmen of the individual unions did not agree on the continuation of the grand coalition. The law on collective bargaining was controversial for a long time, and the financiers of the DGB – these are primarily the organizations with a large number of members – repeatedly raise the question of the sense and purpose of the umbrella organization. Self-employment is part of the program of the DGB, which is made up of eight trade unions. However, the current haggling about the presidency is unusual. What is this place that no one wants to take over?
The new election is due in May
At the beginning of May, the second term of office of Reiner Hoffmann (66), who has led the DGB for almost eight years, expires. Traditionally, the longest-serving union boss is responsible for nominating the successor: Michael Vassiliadis (57) has been at the head of the IG Mining, Chemicals and Energy (IG BCE) since 2009. So Vassiliadis should and wanted to look for a candidate, but he had to wait for Jörg Hofmann. Because this time, IG Metall has the right to propose; the current DGB boss Hoffmann came from the IG BCE and his predecessor Michael Sommer from Verdi. Now it’s IG Metall’s turn. Its chairman Hofmann (66) went on a search many months ago and found – nothing.
Vassiliadis wanted to do it
In times of need, the metalhead Goethe thought: Why wander into the distance when the good is so close? Since nobody was found, Hofmann argued at the annual meeting of the DGB leadership a few days ago, one of the group of eight would have to do it. And an industrial trade unionist. After all, Germany is an industrial country and industry is facing a historic upheaval. Robert Feiger (59), the chairman of the IG Bauen, Agrar, Umwelt (IG BAU) waved it off. So Vasiliadis. The chemical trade unionist was only elected in October for another four years as IG-BCE boss. Vassiliadis knows the conditions in the DGB and agreed on one condition: broad support must be guaranteed.
Verdi shoots across
Now it was Frank Werneke’s turn to be honest. The 54-year-old has been chairman of Verdi for a good two years. Werneke said to Vassiliadis that he couldn’t promise anything. The Verdi delegates, who, after IG Metall, have the greatest weight at the election congress in May in Berlin, are too unpredictable. Vassiliadis once liked to tangle with Wernekes predecessor Frank Bsirske: Here the chemical functionary with an SPD party membership and a very pragmatic view of politics, there the Greens member Bsirske, who does not shy away from class war slogans. Vassiliadis derided Verdi as a movement union. A heap of chaos with 1.8 million members from 1000 professions that cannot be controlled. At least not by Werneke, who warns his DGB colleagues about his own delegates. The nice idea with Vassiliadis as chairman was dead.
Criticism of Jörg Hofmann
On February 8, the next meeting of the DGB leadership, Hofmann is now to present a new candidate. Hofmann of all people. The clever wage strategist at the head of IG Metall is notorious for his personnel policy: he can’t do it. Hofmann is stubborn and reclusive, sometimes gets lost in the little things and hardly communicates. You have to keep reminding him what he actually wants, moan metalheads. Hofmann does not get his own successor arranged. Favorite is the second chairman of the metal union, Christiane Benner (53). But compared to the experienced industrial and collective bargaining strategist Roman Zitzelsberger (55), currently head of IG Metall in Baden-Württemberg, Benner is inexperienced. Hofmann had tried to make the DGB chairmanship palatable to Benner. failed.
Hofmann has delegated the search for a solution to prevent Benner from competing against Zitzelsberger: Zitzelsberger, Benner and Jürgen Kerner, treasurer of IG Metall, are now to come to an agreement on the leadership of Germany’s largest trade union. With a monthly salary of 20,000 euros, the top job at IG Metall is the best-paid position for a labor leader. At the DGB, the chairperson receives 15,000 euros.
The big ones let the DGB hang
Neither IG Metall nor Verdi, neither Hofmann nor Werneke are working hard for the DGB. The two by far largest trade unions lobby independently – in Berlin as well as in the federal states, and do not really need the DGB. They have their own priorities: Hofmann, as head of the IG Metall auto union, is in the process of transformation, and Werneke has to be careful that the heterogeneous organization doesn’t get off track. “As complex as reality,” Verdi describes himself. In 2001, the service union was created through the merger of five unions in a complicated structure. Bsirske Verdi held together with great communicative effort and authority. And Werneke? In the core business, the collective bargaining policy for the public sector, he acted without luck and disappointed many members with the conclusion at the end of November.
Verdi overthrows Berlin DGB boss
In the DGB district of Berlin-Brandenburg, Werneke allowed a conflict to rage last summer, which angered the industrial unions. Verdi, the largest union in the region due to the Berlin public service, wanted to get rid of DGB chairman Christian Hossbach, who comes from IG Metall. Hoßbach, in office since 2018 and previously deputy chairman for eight years, was too social-democratic and industrial-politically ambitious for Berlin Verdi officials. With a lot of noise, a new leadership was found, which was elected on Saturday (see box): The Hamburg DGB chairwoman Katja Karger and Nele Techen from IG Metall, to at least appease the angry metallers a little.
The drama at the top – whether in the federal government or in Berlin-Brandenburg – illustrates the core problem of the DGB: Important (personnel) decisions are made by the big ones, although the umbrella organization is rather indifferent to them. The five smaller unions can look on and hope for what was once the hard currency of the unions: solidarity – the strong with the weak, the big with the small. Also in the DGB.
Source From: Tagesspiegel