Trade unions in East Germany: AfD takes root in works councils

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Trade unions in East Germany: AfD takes root in works councils - albeit slowly

Photo: dpa / arifoto UG

Erfurt. The Jena sociologist Klaus Dörre sees a growing influence of the right-wing party AfD on employee representatives in East Germany. AfD positions have now arrived at management and staff representations and thus in the workforces of companies, said the professor of Friedrich Schiller University on Wednesday at a works and staff council conference in Erfurt. “This can be an explosive device for workers' solidarity.”

Dörre referred to studies of Jena sociologists, among others, in Saxony. Thuringia's Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow (LEFT) warned at the conference that the collective bargaining system would be disrupted.

According to the scientist from Jena, many workers elected the AFD in the state elections in early September. In Brandenburg, more than 40 percent of the workers in the AfD made their mark, in Saxony about 35 percent. Even with male union members, the party scored.

New protest party

“Workers used the AFD to signal a protest,” said Dörre. Moreover, they would be “targeted by the radical right”. Occasionally there are already right-wing candidate lists in works council elections. “This is still a minority phenomenon.”

One reason for the discontent of many East Germans are the still lower wages than in West Germany – in the auto supply industry, the income gap amounts to about one third on average. “Bad wages do not automatically lead to the AfD,” said Dörre. Even comparatively well-paid engineers were offended because they still earned less than their counterparts in West Germany.

The scientist sees the danger that the growing influence of the AfD can have a negative effect on investment decisions. “Companies are considering investing, where the radical right is on the rise.”

Less and less collective agreements

Thuringia's Prime Minister said that the withdrawal of companies from collective bargaining agreements is not just a pity for workers. By the tariff flight they endangered the protective mechanisms of their industries against “dirty competition” with low wages. “There are a few worries around me.” Ramelow spoke of breaking collective bargaining.

According to the district chairman of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB), Michael Rudolph, in Thuringia only 20 percent of the companies have land or company agreements. Thus, only 45 percent of employees would be paid by tariff.

The “crumbling” of the tariff system is based primarily on larger companies, which put pressure on smaller companies. The DGB trade unions counter this trend with a growing number of company-level agreements, said Rudolph. With a minimum wage in the Thuringian law that regulates the awarding of public contracts to companies, the country has deliberately set a signal, said Labor Minister Heike Werner (LEFT). dpa / nd

. (tagsToTranslate) AfD (t) Alternative for Germany (t) Union (t) Thuringia

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