Analysis - Enercon lifts 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.

Enercon founder Aloys Wobben... union ban
Enercon founder Aloys Wobben... union ban

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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 on when they are called up for work, trade union IG Metall said on 3 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."

Asked about the company view on this development, and whether there are plans for employee representation at Enercon factories in Germany, a spokesman said on 11 September that Enercon would not comment on this matter.

Worker representation at wind turbine companies in Germany is not always 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 group. The broad working conditions for metal workers and the electronic 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 in early summer an agreement was reached on improved pay for service technicians with the independent works council. IG Metall members at the company welcomed the success, but noted that trade union organisation could potentially have achieved a better result for employees.

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

Vestas generator production works in Lübeck and foundry in Magdeburg both have a strong IG Metall trade union tradition and representation, 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 hold trade union membership. "Working with trade unions is therefore a matter of course," the company said, citing as an example the swift setting up of an 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 (that is, not connected with 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 told Windpower Monthly.

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