German Labor Asks Co-Management

Courtesy Reuters

THE vote of the Bonn Parliament in May 1951 conceding "co-management" to labor in the coal, iron and steel industries of Western Germany was an international sensation, raising the question whether a new form of Socialism had appeared in Germany. Ever since its foundation in 1949, the German Trade Union Federation has sought Mitbestimmungsrecht--the right of labor to share in the management of industrial firms as well as in decisions on national economic planning. Its object has been to establish labor in a key position in the new German state while the social and political forces of the Federal Republic were still in flux, and to use this strength in fighting for full employment and a higher standard of living. In 1952 the issue again became acute. The Government invited the Federation to join a committee on productivity which the Vice-Chancellor sought to establish under his auspices. The Trade Union Federation countered with demands for a national economic council on which it would have equal representation with industry, as well as the extension of co-determination to workers in all major industries, including the public service. It backed its demands by a series of strikes; and negotiations last July between the Federation and the Government broke down almost as soon as they had started.

The strikes of last May were intended to warn Chancellor Adenauer against making a bargain with the right wing of his Government, by which he would oppose further extension of co-management in return for support for the Contractual Agreement being negotiated with the Western Allies. But this attempt of the unions to bring pressure upon the legislature aroused public indignation. Chancellor Adenauer, taking advantage of the opportunity to dispose of the unions' demands while the public mood was unfavorable to them, and to eliminate the issue before the debate on foreign relations, pressed for acceptance of a new law on co-management which gave labor much less than it wanted. The unions pleaded for postponement; but on July 20 the law was

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