Trade unions in lock step with the German government


Trade unions in lock step with the German government

Ulrich Rippert

16 May 2018

In the face of growing transatlantic tensions, trade war, military rearmament, rapid technological change, massive social cuts and growing resistance among workers, the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) is stepping up its collaboration with the government. That is the quintessence of the DGB Congress, which took place on Sunday in Berlin.

Every four years, several hundred union officials gather, calling their meeting a “Parliament of Labour.” Representatives of the government and the various political parties are always invited. But this year, the alliance between the trade unions and the government was particularly pronounced. The federal president, the chancellor, the finance minister and vice chancellor, the labour minister and the families minister, as well as leading representatives of almost all parties, appeared at the DGB congress.

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke immediately after the welcome address of DGB leader Reiner Hoffmann. He began by saying, “We live amid great upheavals. Certainties that seemed irrefutable a few years ago are beginning to waver.” Since the Brexit vote in 2016, and especially since the US elections, the world is hardly recognizable, he said. “Uncertainty, retreat into nationalism, populism” are spreading everywhere.

The consequences of these changes had to be discussed at the trade union conference, he declared. The central questions were: “Is the centre of our society stable? Does social cohesion remain—between the wealthy and those on low-incomes, between city and country, east and west? Can we reverse the trend of societies polarizing? And if so, how?”

Steinmeier then focused on a question that, as he said, had…

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