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Germany - Enercon lifts trade union ban

GERMANY After decades with virtually no trade union representation, employees at nine Enercon service divisions in Germany should soon have works council representatives.

Procedures have begun for elections, probably to take place in early November, after employees said they wanted better pay, more appreciation of their work and improved arrangements relating to when they are called up for work, said trade union IG Metall in September. Problems include shifts of more than 12 hours and service team on-call shifts starting from 3am, it added.

The trade union cites an Enercon service technician saying: "We expect Enercon management to understand that we are not against the company. On the contrary, we want a works council because we love our jobs. If we can put our views, motivation will increase and the working climate will be better, which will help the company as a whole."

Enercon manufacturing workers are not part of the current negotiations.

Asked about the company view on this development, and whether there are plans for employee representation at Enercon factories in Germany, a spokesman said that the company would not comment on this matter.

Precedents

Worker representation at wind-turbine companies in Germany has not always been achieved without friction. IG Metall reported in March on a seven-month battle to clinch a collective agreement on working conditions and pay for the 2,200 employees at Repower.

The broad working conditions for metal workers and the electronics sector applied from May 2013, while details on pay will take effect from April 2014 for part of Repower Systems' workforce, between October 2014 and April 2015 for its blade maker Powerblades, and between October 2015 and October 2017 for the remaining Repower Systems employees.

The agreement at Repower had repercussions for Vestas Deutschland, where an agreement was reached this summer on improved pay for service technicians with the independent works council. IG Metall members at the company welcomed the deal, but noted that the trade union organisation could potentially have achieved a better result for employees.

Independent works councils

Vestas Deutschland said an independent facility council was set up 20 years ago, but a growing number of its members now also hold IG Metall membership. It believes this is a consequence of the union's "organising campaign" launched some two years ago with a focus on wind-energy companies. Also, consolidation in the wind sector is affecting working conditions, which in turn triggers more interest in trade-union representation, the company points out.

Vestas' generator production facility in Lubeck and foundry in Magdeburg both have a strong IG Metall trade union tradition, both with works councils. The blade production facility in Lauchhammer too has trade union representation through the mining, chemicals and energy trade union IG BCE and a works council.

Vestas Deutschland attributes its positive relations with trade unions in Germany to the company's Danish roots. In Denmark, 70-80% of industrial workers are trade-union members. "Working with trade unions is therefore a matter of course," Vestas said, citing as an example the swift setting up of a European works council initiated by Vestas works councils and employees and supported by top management.

Nordex has long had worker representation in the form of independent works councils, not connected to a trade union, at its Rostock and Hamburg divisions, set up around ten years ago. These also represent Nordex employees in different regions of Germany. Nordex employees in other countries in Europe are represented by a European works council, a company spokesman said.

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