By: DL
Meeting of union representatives from Siemens

On August 17th/18th, 24 union representatives from Siemens locations in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Serbia and Austria met at Kutná Hora (Czech Republic) to discuss the latest developments at Siemens and to exchange their experiences.

The meeting's program included some local background information for the participants.

The represented locations were: Mohelnice, Letohrad, Frenštát, Brno, Drásov, Trutnov and Štětí from the Czech Republic, Budapest from Hungary, Subotica from Serbia and Vienna from Austria.Konrad Jablonski and Dirk Linder represented IG Metall from Germany. The meeting was co-financed by the Friedrich Ebert foundation (Friedrich Ebert-Stiftung).

Jaroslav Souček, the president of the Czech Republic’s Metal Workers’ Union OS KOVO, and Dana Sakařova, the international secretary of OS KOVO, had organized the meeting and took the chair of the discussion. Vladimir Špánik from the FES office at Bratislava gave a welcome speech, in which he emphasized the special importance of the Siemens meeting. Except for VW, there are no other similar transnational meetings at big companies in the region like this.

Mr. Petr Sochor was invited to the meeting as representative of Siemens. He gave some informations about the presence of Siemens in the Czech Republic since 1890. The Czech Republic is still one of the most important countries in Europe for Siemens. There are a lot of cooperations of Siemens with universities and other companies, like Škoda, in the Czech Republic. Mr. Sochor also talked about the internal career programs, an internal survey and social projects of Siemens. He explained the new company structure of Siemens and the measurements of the management to improve the competitiveness of the company. He mentioned that the exports from the Czech Republic benefit from the weak Czech currency.

Jaroslav Souček criticized the weak-currency-policy of the former government, because this has negatively affected the capacity of the Czech people to spend money. He said that now there are expectations for a change.The Czech union representatives criticized the internal survey as not representative for the general opinion of the workers at the Siemens locations.They also described the behavior of the local managers as not being very supportive, for example in the discussion about the working time accounts, which are still quite unpopular. Mr. Sochor underlined that all changes can only be achieved by a cooperation of union representatives and management.

Jaroslav Souček gave some informations about the developments at the Czech Republic. The employment in the metal industry has increased again, but has still not reached the pre-crisis-level. He said that the Czech Republic has one of the lowest minimum wages in Europe and that the unions are fighting to change that. On September 16th, the union confederation ČMKOS will organize a big assembly at Prague to demand the end of cheap labour at the Czech Republic.

The participants discussed the current developments at Siemens. They criticized Siemens as not being as innovative as other companies. The role of the central management was also criticized as sometimes disturbing local decisions.

Konrad Jablonski from IG Metall explained the topic “Industry 4.0”. He said that the predictions about the impact on employment figures of the new technical options are very unsure. Some are negative, but some also see chances in the new technologies. The effects will depend very much on the influence that unions and workers’ representations will take. Jaroslav Souček sees some backlog for the Czech unions at this issue. He thinks there is need for cooperation of the unions in Europe to handle the development.

The participants also discussed the negotiations of the EU-US-treaty TTIP. Jaroslav Souček pointed out that OS KOVO will discuss the topic with prominent opponents and supporters of the agreements. He said that the unions are very critical towards TTIP because they expect a lot of pressure on consumer protection and labour standards in Europe.

The members of the Siemens Europe Committee (SEC), Pavel Holzknecht, Lukaš Bartoš and Gábor Kun, gave a report from the SEC meeting at Manchester in May.

All participants gave a short report from their location.

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