ver.di Congress ©Kay Herschelmann
(20 September 2023) One of the important issues at the 6th Congress of the German union Verdi was the strengthening of collective bargaining. The union is fighting attacks against trade union rights by corporate interests and rightwing parties. The European directive on adequate minimum wages and its target that at least 80% of workers need to be covered by a collective agreement will assist in strengthening collective bargaining. The union is behind the campaign to ensure that companies that violate rules do not get public money. No public money to companies if there is no collective agreement. The recently adopted law on supply-chain responsibility gives the possibility to defend and promote trade union rights including collective bargaining across the world.
There were many issues debated in the Congress – ranging from the need for public investment in public services and infrastructure to the demands of the union for wage increases, quality jobs and more staffing like in health and care. An important place was reserved for the discussion on digital technologies and dealing with the implications of Artificial Intelligence. Delegates discussed the war in Ukraine and its implications for Germany and Europe. The fact that the government had quickly made available 100 bn Euro for financing defence and weapons while not finding the budget to deal with a growing gap in public finance for investments across public services was evaluated very critically. Solidarity with Ukrainian workers and people remains solid and the President of EPSU/PSI affiliated nuclear workers’ union Atomprofsilka got a big applause during the European and international panel. The EPSU General Secretary participated in the panel that discussed the role of unions in providing solidarity in the war with Ukraine, during natural disasters as recent earthquakes and floods, our fight for equality between women and men, and supporting unions when trade union rights are violated such as in Belarus. He drew attention to the rise of the extreme-right and the increased pressure on women’s rights. The trade union movement is resolutely opposed to the far-rights and fascists and resolutely feminist..
Frank Werneke was re-elected President. Other executive members working with EPSU were re-elected like Christine Behle, Sylvia Buehler and Christophe Schmitz. The new president of the union’s trade union parliament is Lisette Horig. EPSU sent our congratulations to Frank and his colleagues.
On the side lines of the Congress a seminar with the European and international delegates took place on the recently adopted German law on supply-chain responsibilities. This law lays down that companies have to do risks assessments regarding their supply chain (risks for human rights and environmental violations and more). It sets an example for the EU Due Diligence law which is currently being discussed between the Parliament and the Council. The situation of the striking truck drivers from countries like Georgia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in Grafenhausen is a test for the law. Major companies like DHL, DB, Schenker, Mercedes, Deutsche Post, BMW, Obi, Red Bull and others use a Polish company Mazur that does not pay the workers their wages. The government has announced an investigation if the companies respect their obligations under the law. They could face fines. Congress adopted a statement in solidarity with the truckers some of whom are on hunger strike.
The Verdi Congress was from 17-21 September 2023, Berlin.
For more information on the Verdi Congress
For the speech of re-elected President Frank Werneke
Summary of discussions on the supply chain responsibility law.
More on the law and its links with the European Due Diligence Law
More on the strike of truckers in Grafenhausen and the special investigation regarding compliance with the supply chain responsibility law
For an example of working out a risk assessment of the supply chain of companies in the energy sector. Verdi was a member of the working group.