Trade unions in Germany

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Trade unions in Germany
National trade union organization(s)
National government agency(ies)
Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
Primary trade union legislation
Article 9, Paragraph 3 of the Basic Law

International Labour Organization

Germany is a member of the ILO

Convention ratification
Freedom of Association March 20, 1957
Right to Organise June 8, 1956

Trade unions in Germany have a history reaching back to the German revolution in 1848, and still play an important role in the German economy and society. The most important labor organization is the German Confederation of Trade Unions (Deutsche Gewerkschaftsbund or DGB), which represents more than 6 million people (31 December 2011) and is the umbrella association of several single trade unions for special economic sectors.

The largest single trade union is the IG Metall with about 2,300,000 members by 2010, organizing employees in metal (including automobile and machine building), electronics, steel, textile, wood and synthetics industries.



Employees' representation in Germany has a binary structure: trade unions that set the framework for working conditions, such as collective wage agreements, for whole sectors or single companies, defining wage levels and working time on the one hand - and works councils ("Betriebsräte") that are elected by employees and represent their interests on company level. They shape and supervise the execution of the frameworks set by trade unions and laws in the company.

German industrial relations are characterized by a high degree of employee participation up to co-determination in companies' boards ("Aufsichtsrat"), where trade unionists and works councils elected by employees have full voting rights. Local trade union representants are democratically elected by union members and formally largely autonomous. Central boards of directors ("Vorstand") are elected by delegatees.


Trade unions in Germany define themselves as being more than a "collective bargaining machine", but as important political player for social, economical and also environmental subjects, especially also for labor market policy and professional education.

Major unions[edit]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]