• Bernhard Ebbinghaus
  • Klaus Armingeon
  • Anke Hassel
Part of the The Societies of Europe book series (SOEU)


Germany’s late national unity and the rapid industrialization of a post-feudal society and authoritarian state left its imprint on the German labour movement. Centralized ‘industrial unions’ with strong political ties developed vis-à-vis strong employers’ associations. Political cleavages also emerged in this segmented society: socialist, Christian, liberal and later communist and nationalist currents competed for worker allegiance. In addition, status differences were reinforced by social policy, which led to separate organizations for white-collar and civil servant organizations. Having experienced the class conflicts and weakness of organized labour when facing the threat of fascism, post-war German union leaders attempted to overcome these past shortcomings by forming a unitary union movement (DGB) with strong encompassing, non-partisan ‘industrial unions’. Although some smaller rival unions of white-collar and Christian workers and civil servants have re-emerged, the DGB and its unions assume the pivotal role, even though only every third employee is a union member. In particular, the large and well-organized industrial unions, led by the metalworkers’ union (IG Metall), set the wage pattern in the export-orientated economy. In contrast to the period before the Second World War, the government is no longer entitled to intervene in ‘free collective bargaining’. Instead, court law sets the legal conditions for moderate strike and lockout rights. The unions, despite the moderate level of unionization, assumed an important role in the ‘German model’, which entails sectoral bargaining coverage, statutory co-determination rights, a dual system of education and training, self-administration in social security administration, and some forms of informal consultation.


Collective Bargaining Public Employee Supervisory Board Union Density Work Council 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Bernhard Ebbinghaus and Jelle Visser 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernhard Ebbinghaus
  • Klaus Armingeon
  • Anke Hassel

There are no affiliations available

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