Germany′s president tells unions to do their bit for financial reform | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 05.10.2009
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Germany's president tells unions to do their bit for financial reform

German President Horst Koehler has voiced concern that current efforts to reform world financial systems do not go far enough. He says that trade unions need to get involved.

Koehler, Michael Sommer and Angela Merkel sit next to each other

Koehler (l.), DGB chief Sommer and Chancellor Merkel rubbed shoulders Monday

Speaking in Berlin at celebrations to mark 60 years since the foundation of the German Trade Union Federation (DGB) on Monday, Horst Koehler said decisions taken at the recent G-20 meeting in Pittsburg had failed to convince him that enough was being done to prevent a repeat of the current global economic crisis.

"I don't see the monster being tamed," he told his audience in Berlin, adding that the financial markets were still characterized by shell games, lack of transparency and speculation on commodities markets.

Koehler bemoaned what he described as a lack of self-reflection from global financial actors and warned against the principle of hope. He said nobody should think that growth could cover over or eradicate the memories of what has already happened.

The president, a former head of the International Monetary Fund, said the financial sector needs strong state and inter-state regulatory policies and stressed the important role of the world's trade unions in "any fundamental reform of the global financial order."

He called on employee representatives attending the celebrations to "get involved."

Making work a priority

He called for a cooperative employment climate and a culture of co-determination in which everyone could have the feeling they were needed. "Work for all," he said "must be and must remain a main political target."

Union member march in a May Day demonstration in Berlin

Unions need to be involved in reform efforts, Koehler said

Much has changed since the inception of the DGB in 1949. Back then, Germany was struggling to emerge from the rubble of the Second World War, and needed all hands on deck to push ahead with its reconstruction effort.

The DGB came into being in order to ensure the country's workers a good deal and what then Chairman Hans Boeckler described as "a larger portion of the material, intellectual and cultural goods of society."

On Monday, the current DGB leader Michael Sommer praised the work of Germany's trade unions over the past six decades, saying they had "genuinely made a major contribution" to national reconstruction efforts.

He said it was thanks to the unions that Germany was a respected member of the international community which demonstrated an obligation to the preservation of employees' rights.

Editor: Nancy Isenson

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