Trade Unions 2

What are the Definition of Trade Unions? Part II


Which well-known unions are there in Germany?

In Germany there is a large variety of associations that specialize in improving the working conditions of the workforce. Their focus is always on a specific industry. If it is a so-called umbrella organization such as the German Trade Union Federation (DGB), several individual trade unions belong to it. The following eight unions belong to the DGB:

  • United Services Union (Verdi)
  • IG Metall
  • Police Union
  • Railway and Transport Union
  • Education and Science Union
  • Union of Food – Enjoyment – Restaurants
  • IG Bauer – Agriculture – Environment
  • IG mining, chemistry, energy

Other unions in Germany that do not belong to the DGB are, for example, the German Civil Service Federation (DBB), the Christian Trade Union Federation (CGB), Marburger Bund and the Cockpit Association.

When does union membership make sense?

Whether or not membership of a trade union brings personal advantages depends to a large extent on the personal situation of your employees. The provisions of the collective agreement of the respective union apply in any case. There is also free legal protection for union members in the event of disagreements with the employer or other internal problems. If in doubt, it is advisable to seek experience from union members. Ultimately, it is the industry that helps the targeted union weigh its real costs and benefits.

What should be considered when leaving a union?

According to, a union can be terminated without giving a reason. What is to be considered in concrete terms when terminating a membership is regulated in the respective statutes of the union. The written form is predominantly required. However, the termination of a union is usually linked to the observance of deadlines. Membership can often only be terminated on a quarterly basis. This should already be taken into account when you wish to terminate the contract.

How does this form of employee representation affect your company?

Usually, unions are not very popular with employers. This is because they do not shy away from any industrial action for the benefit of the workers. Strikes, for example, are particularly devastating for your company. The counterpart to the trade union is the employers’ association. Here, too, membership is voluntary.


If you decide to become a member of the employers’ association, you will also receive support in implementing your interests. However, union regulations only affect your company if at least one of your employers is a member.


Dealing with trade unions is not always easy for entrepreneurs. Nevertheless, they play an important role in creating a healthy atmosphere between employees and managing directors. The more comfortable your employees feel at work, the less you will feel the influence of a union. A healthy coexistence forms the best basis for a successful entrepreneurial future, regardless of unions.

In a nutshell: frequently asked questions about union

What is the DGB?

The German Trade Union Federation (DGB), based in Berlin, is an umbrella organization consisting of a total of eight individual trade unions. With around 6 million members worldwide, the DGB is one of the largest trade union associations. The interests of employees are represented at both national and international level. The latter includes, for example, the EU and the UN. It is not possible for the DGB itself to conclude collective agreements. Rather, it coordinates politics and the organization of the individual trade unions.

When is a union represented in your company?

From the point of view of works constitution law, a union is represented in your company as soon as at least one employee takes up membership. The collective bargaining responsibility of a union specifically for your company is irrelevant.

How is a union funded?

Trade unions are financed exclusively through membership fees such as income from their assets. There is no government money or subsidies. Thus, unions are required to finance the entire apparatus, all administrative employees and all full-time functionaries from their own resources. The smaller the number of members, the more difficult it becomes to finance.

How high is the membership fee?

The actual amount of the union fee to be paid can be found in the respective statutes. As a guideline, around 1% of gross monthly income applies. For certain groups of people, such as trainees or people on parental leave, a reduced contribution rate applies.

Are you obliged to pay your workers during a union strike?

You are exempt from continued pay during a strike. Your workers will therefore not receive any payment during this period. Only union members are paid by the responsible union. Colloquially it is referred to as strike money. The strike money is exempt from income tax. The claims from health and pension insurance remain unrestricted for the entire duration of the strike.

Can employees be terminated during a union strike?

No, no dismissal from employees is legally effective during the entire duration of the strike.

Trade Unions 2