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Trade Union Revitalisation

Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries

Craig Phelan

Although trade unionism has been declining in virtually every part of the world, its continued demise is not a foregone conclusion. As it has throughout its history, trade unionism has demonstrated a capacity to adapt, to make its voice heard, to reassert its power. The scale and scope of experimentation taking place in the labour movement today is testimony not just to the depth of the crisis but also to the possibility of resurgence in the years ahead. This book is an essential resource for anyone wishing to know about contemporary labour issues. It offers a comprehensive introduction to the state of trade unionism in the world today, and the often innovative strategies and tactics trade unionists are using to revive their organisations in each of the major nations of the world. Leading labour scholars discuss, in clear prose, the health of the trade union movement, the present political and economic climate for trade union advancement, the dominant revitalisation strategies, and future prospects in each nation. Each chapter includes an up-to-date guide to further reading.

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Trade Union Revitalisation in Germany 173

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MARTIN BEHRENS, MICHAEL FICHTER and CAROLA M. FREGE Trade Union Revitalisation in Germany 1. Introduction A strong, united and basically cooperative labour movement was a substantial contributor to the post-1945 success story of the German Federal Republic in its rise from the destruction wrought by National Socialism and war to a model of democratic and economic stability. Union goals for the reconstruction of the economy after 1945 were predicated on the promotion of economic growth, security and partici- pation. While steadfastly committed to the goal of political democra- tisation from the outset, the unions pragmatically redirected their demands for economic democracy to fit the realities of Allied control and a government led by Christian Democrats propounding a social market economy. This was in line with the traditional orientation of German unions since the 1890s: a broadly defined political movement in the development and defence of democracy and justice, at the same time struggling for material improvements for the working class. The upshot of this approach was an organised labour movement with a capacity for autonomous action and a readiness to forge an extended network of institutional embeddedness. It was this self-understanding along with a favourable economic climate which enabled German unions to cooperate with powerful employers’ associations and an active welfare state in institutionalising the so-called ‘German model’ of industrial relations, that comprehensive web of institutions and organisations regulating conflicts of interest between labour and capital as a key enabling factor of Germany’s democratisation and economic success story (Müller-Jentsch...

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