From January 18th-20th, Randy Middleton and Jerry Kurimski of the US union International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) visited Germany for talks with representatives of IG Metall in Frankfurt and Berlin.
Middleton is responsible for the industrial sector of the IBEW, Kurimski is specially engaged in the "Organizing" Department of IBEW also with Siemens in the United States. The IBEW provides union representation of employees in several Siemens locations in the United States. The IG Metall has been working with several US unions for some years in the context of transnational union cooperation at Siemens. The visit of the two IBEW union representatives also served to prepare a work-shop with about 45 trade unionists from Siemens in the US and Canada, which will take place in February in the US.
On January 18th, the two visited the Siemens switchgear factory in Frankfurt-Fechenheim. Dietmar Kuttner, member of the Central Works Council of Siemens and of its negotiating committee, gave the visitors a tour of the factory. He explained the manufacturing processes and the working conditions and remuneration of the employees and the activities of the Works Council.
After the visit, there was a conversation with the chief treasurer of IG Metall, Jürgen Kerner, the union officer of IG Metall responsible for Siemens, Reinhard Hahn, and Gabriele Ibrom from the International Department of IG Metall. The main topic of the meeting was the workshop for the trade unions represented at Siemens in the USA and Canada and the further cooperation between IG Metall and the US unions.
On January 20th, Randy Middleton and Jerry Kurimski visited the Siemens Large Drives plant in Berlin and had a conversation with the deputy president of the Berlin IG Metall local, Regina Katerndahl, and representatives of several Siemens Works Councils. Predrag Savić, deputy chairman of the Works Council of the plant, gave the vistors a factory tour. Middleton and Kurimski asked many questions about the production processes, the training of employees and the wages. Middleton: "Particularly impressive is the cleanliness of the production halls. It is also interesting for us to learn, what possibilities the Works Council as the representation of the workers has to influence the working conditions."
Middleton, Kurimski, Katerndahl and Dirk Linder (coordinator of the global trade union network at Siemens) had the ensuing discussion together with Bettina Haller, chairwoman of the Siemens Group Works Council from the Mobility plant in Berlin-Treptow, Doris Schaloski from the Gas Turbine Plant in Berlin-Moabit and Predrag Savić. Schaloski reported on the negotiations about staff reductions in the gas turbine plant that have been announced by the Siemens management. She presented the process and the outcome of the negotiations and explained the procedure of the work and the influence of the Works Council and IG Metall.
Middleton and Kurimski explained the specific activities of their union on training. Since US government or corporate training programs were largely scaled back in the US, the IBEW has created many training projects of its own, partly in collaboration with individual companies or with company associations. There have also been talks with Siemens about cooperation in this field of activity. They also reported how the relationship to parts of the Siemens management in the United States has improved through collaboration with IG Metall and the Central Works Council of Siemens in Germany.