Interview: The New Deal
Unions: In the Line of Hire
Culture: Too Cool for the Collective?
International: The Domino Effect
Industrial: A Spanner in the Works
National Focus: Gathering of the Tribes
History: The Welcome Nazi Tourist
Bad Boss: Domm, Domm Turn Around
Poetry: Just Move On.
Review: Reality Bites
The Locker Room
The Secret Life of Us
Tough Women Draw Line at Sacking
Witness Protection Urged on IRC
Howard Enlists Russians for Military
Vic Workcover Invests in Worker Misery
Whistleblower Sacking Sparks Zoo Walkout
Truckie With Conscience Wins Back Job
Indigenous Labour honours Tobler
Asbestos Blocks Liverpool Road Works
It Is Still About The Members Isn't It
Labor Council of NSW
The Domino Effect
An abortive strike in eastern Germany - demanding a 35 hour week - collapsed in June, and throughout July the leadership of IG Metall has brawled about who was to blame.
This was the first time the IG Metall had lot a strike in more than 50 years - so the consequences of the defeat were dramatic and have become very public, especially as the union was in the middle of a handover of the leadership from one generation to another.
The generational change portended a new, more militant era as the former pliant and moderate leadership left the national stage.
The Social Democrat Chancellor, Schroeder, has used the historic collapse of the strike not just to lecture the in-coming leadership of IG Metall about the failure of militancy, but he has also used the cover of this union brawl to start tearing apart the social safety net welfare system, which has a 120-year history in that country.
Progressives throughout Europe are concerned that if the social safety net is torn away in Germany - the core supporter of this tradition - then it will be that much easier to attack it and kill it off in other parts of the EU.
The excuse in Germany for cutting unemployment payments, chopping medical and dental care, hitting at the incomes of pensioners and similar is an economic catastrophe with over four million unemployed - a rate in eastern Germany of nearly 20 percent.
The main opponents to these plans have traditionally been the trade unions - led by their version of the ACTU, the DGB. But most of the fight was led by its two biggest affiliates the public sector union - ver.di - and the manufacturing union - IG Metall.
Without a strong IG Metall the ability to organise and campaign against those who would attack the social welfare state has been severely hampered.
The DGB leadership is so concerned about the IG Metall brawl that, in a rare public comment on internal union matters, they have called for the dispute to be resolved and buried.
Ursula Engelen-Kefer, the chair of the DGB, called on IG Metall to find a quick solution.
Ms Engelen-Kefer said lessons had to be learned from the debacle there were too many numerous tasks remaining in eastern Germany to allow this dispute to continue to paralyse not just IG Metall but also the rest of the union movement.
But while in recent days the IG Metall has moved to paper over the split, the retiring president, Klaus Zwickel, left the union in a bitter huff - with loads of fireworks and smoke to attract attention to his departure.
He clearly blamed his former vice-president Juergen Peters for the failure of the 35-hour week strike in eastern Germany.
In a media statement issued as he left the union Mr Zwickel blasted his opponents saying the current chaos in his huge nearly 3 million member union was not caused by him: " Individuals who are not prepared to take responsibility for personal consequences for a serious political defeat for IG Metall are behind it."
The un-named individual was Juergen Peters who got the nod last year to take over as the leader of the union in October.
He has the reputation for militancy that his predecessor Klaus Zwickel has not.
Peters became designated successor in April after a close battle with the reform-minded regional leader Berthold Huber
But after getting the nod for the leadership job Peters was given responsibility for developing the strategy to bring IG Metall members in eastern Germany, the former German Democratic Republic, up to the same standards are their west German colleagues.
The easterners, despite lots of promises, were being paid less and worked longer hours.
While the strike won higher pay for workers in the steel industry, it failed in its main goal to win the 35 hour week which was achieved some years ago in the west of the country.
The big companies used unprecedented tough tactics against the union delaying and delaying negotiations. In the end they threatened to shut down all auto production plants, not just in the east but also across the rest of the country and other parts of Europe - allegedly because of the lack of auto parts coming from the eastern plants.
The stand-downs, and threatened job losses, caused a massive reaction among IG Metall members in the west - who form a majority of the union - and amidst this turmoil the strike came to an infamous end, and an unusual defeat.
Speculation about what this defeat meant for the new militants in IG Metall started almost immediately. Klaus Zwickel was quoted in the media suggesting he would change his mind about his retirement plans.
And some sections of IG Metall called for a special convention to try and stop Juergen Peters' planned step up to the leadership job scheduled to take place in October at the normal union convention.
Throughout July media headlines were dominated by stories about what Zwickel, Peters and others would do in the union and whether the special convention would go ahead.
After almost a month of paralysing manouvering - with attempts to lift Peters original opponent, Berthold Huber, into the top job the out-going Zwickel resigned.
And an accommodation has been reached which will see Peters and Huber working closely together at the top of IG Metall.
The demand now from the IG Metall membership and the rest of the union movement in Germany and across Europe is that the leadership work together to fight those who would undermine the more than century old social safety net tradition of that country.
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