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German Press Review: IG Metall in Disarray

Many of the editorials in Tuesday’s German papers commented on the power struggles within the engineering trade union IG Metall and the upper echelons of the Christian Democratic party.


IG Metall's strike last month to cut the hours of eastern workers ended in disaster.

If IG Metall wants to survive -- and it is a question of survival -- then the mudslinging has to stop, the Frankfurter Rundschau wrote. The union has suffered a major and lasting set back because of the power struggle which is being played out in the open. There's only one way to limit the damage: the leadership must be dissolved and the members must hold a vote. This way IG Metall can regain a political perspective and take a step back from the precipice, the paper said.

The Neue Ruhr/Neue Rhein Zeitung in Essen opined that given Germany's current crisis, hard-nosed union demands for a 35 hour week are outdated. But the workers' calls for flexibility do raise questions that need to be answered by employers, such as what’s to happen in the police force, for instance, as the mountains of overtime start to build up? And when will more workers finally be employed instead of simply upping the burden on other parts of the organization?

The Stuttgarter Zeitung said Jürgen Peters, set to take over as chairman of IG Metall, is the wrong man to head the union. How can he possibly speak for the organization, the paper asked, when even before taking the helm, he attacks his leader and thereby damages the very position he aspires to?

The Sächsische Zeitung from Dresden said the workers need representatives who can present their aims effectively, based on the understanding that it's only in the successful enterprises that workers are going to be able to press their demands. But the conditions from one company to the next have never been so unequal, the paper noted. The metal workers in many east German firms have known this for a long time. The unions, and especially IG Metall, must stop claiming to be a party with political goals. They have no mandate for that.

In Berlin, Die Welt was critical of both Christian Democrat leader Angela Merkel and the Hesse’s premier, Roland Koch, whose disagreements over the government’s proposed tax cuts have led to talk of a power struggle in the conservative opposition. The papers points out that Koch was, before now, Merkel's strongest ally, because he at least kept quiet when others criticized her. Now though, Koch clearly wants to get ahead, the paper wrote. But Gerhard Schröder's tax proposals pose a risk both for Hesse's budget and for Koch's own advance toward becoming chancellor himself. The Süddeutsche Zeitung in Munich wrote that Angela Merkel's authority is threatened, even if in her power tussle with Roland Koch she is receiving solid support from the ranks as well as from Bavarian premier Edmund Stoiber. But it's not over yet and knowing the conservatives, the next round in the battle could produce quite different results, the paper said.