On February 9th-11th, 48 representatives from US and Canadian unions that are represented at Siemens, came together at Orlando, Florida, for a workshop. [Update: Report from IUE-CWA]
Reinhard Hahn, the IG Metall union officer responsible for Siemens, Robert Kensbock, the deputy chairman of the Central Works Council of Siemens Germany, and Harald Kern, the chairman of the Siemens Europe Committee, all three members of the supervisory board of Siemens, took part in the workshop as well as Ev Zirkler from the Central Works Council’s office and Dirk Linder from IG Metall. Frank Becker, a counselor from the Technical University of Berlin, was leading and moderating the workshop.
The represented union locals came from the Dresser Rand factories in Olean, Wellsville and Painted Post (all New York), the motor factory in Norwood, Ohio, the switchgear/switchboard factory in Grand Prairie, Texas, the high voltage equipment factory in Richland, Mississippi, the turbine repair shops in Trenton, New Jersey, and Houston, Texas, and from Canada from the low voltage switchgear factory in Drummondville, the former Rolls-Royce plant in Montréal and the transformer factory in Trois-Rivières, all from Québec.
The represented unions were IBEW, IUE-CWA, USW, IAM, UAW and Unifor.
Lonnie Stephenson, the president of IBEW, Jim Clark, the president of IUE-CWA, and Reinhard Hahn from IG Metall opened the workshop. They pointed out the importance of the workshop from their point of view. Reinhard also explained the background of the work of the unions in Germany.
The workshop started with an introduction of the participants by partner interviews. This gave everybody the chance to learn about the personal background of all the participants as well as their position in the union.
The second day of the workshop started with the presentation of the German model of employees’ representation and “co-determination” by Harald Kern. He pointed out the three pillars of the German system of “co-determination” and described the practical work of the employees’ representation of Siemens in Germany. After Harald’s presentation, Robert Kensbock explained the viewpoints and strategic approach of the Central Works Council of Siemens in Germany to the participants. He also reported of the way the Works Council in Germany reacted to the job cuts that had been planned by the management.
Both presentations were discussed afterwards. The main questions focused on the issue of how to transfer the standards of the social dialogue in Germany to the US and Canada under the conditions provided by a completely different legal situation.
In the afternoon, Lee Vickers, senior HR manager of Siemens, gave a presentation of Siemens in the US from the management’s viewpoint. The participants discussed his presentation afterwards. Especially the issue of the manage-ment’s attitude towards the unions was discussed. Lee Vickers said, that Siemens would not actively fight unions, but would also feel obliged to point out the management’s point of view. He thinks that the unions in the US have a fair chance to win at the elections under the US law. Still, only about 6 % of the employees at the US are represented by unions.
The last part of the workshop took part in working groups. These worked on several issues:
- The contents of a neutrality agreement with Siemens
- The structure of an inter-union council at Siemens
- The standards of social benefits at Siemens
- Apprenticeship and vocational training programs
- The future communication and cooperation of the unions at Siemens
- The contribution of the participants for success at Siemens
The results of the workshop were summarized by Harald and Robert. Finally, the participants gave a positive feedback. The next step will be the formation of a steering group of the unions to continue the process of cooperation.
» presentations by Harald Kern and Robert Kensbock can be downloaded with the links above
» Lena Klein of the IUE-CWA has provided a report about the conference that can also be downloaded (Labor_Conference__L-Klein_IUE-CWA.pdf)