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Country Report Germany

1) Germany

With more than 82,537,000 inhabitants and 357,026 square kilometers, the FRG is the biggest and economically the strongest country in the European Union (EU). Hard coal is still being produced in the Saar area and North Rhine-Westphalia. Coal and steel were the economic basis of German imperialism which, for this reason, unleashed already two World Wars.

2) Structural Crisis in the Coal Industry

(Labor force in hard coal industry and output per man and shift)

In 1957, there were 607,000 miners, the highest number ever in Germany. Subsequently, the first big wave of pit closures started due to the structural crisis in the energy sector: coal was more and more replaced by oil. 85 out of 142 mines were closed down in the nineteen-sixties. The number of employees dropped to 183,000, when the Ruhrkohle AG (RAG) was founded in 1969. Today, the DSK (Deutsche Steinkohle) has still 9 mines with 34,000 miners who account for 1.1 percent of the gainfully employed persons in Germany. The numbers of workers vary from 2,872 to 5,500.

The coal output per man and shift was raised from 1.6 tons in 1957 to 6.5 tons in 2003. This demonstrates how a constantly decreasing number of miners is increasingly squeezed out.

In the year 2002, 26.1 mio tons of hard coal were produced. Sales volume was at 27.8 mio tons.

3) Objective of the RAG: dominating position in the world market

(RAG with bar-charts)

Aided by state subsidies, the RAG corporation developed into an international supermonopoly in the sectors of raw materials, mechanical engineering and chemical industry. In 2003, the RAG took over Degussa with 46,615 employees, number 1 in the world market in special chemistry; in turn, RAG sold parts of Rütgers. In mining, RAG concentrates on coal trade, currently takes rank 4 in the world market, and on mining technology where it is ranking second with the Deutsche Bergbautechnik (German Mining Technology, DBT). Under these circumstances, RAG intends to dissociate from coal production by selling its mines abroad and by closing more pits in the FRG.

4) Massive wage reduction via the wage components

(Foil with text)

Job cuts are flanked by massive wage cuts and increased exploitation. The coal miner dropped from the top of the industrial pay scale to its end; today, he gets gross wages of between 1,100 and 3,000 Euro; one third up to one half of these must be paid for social-security contributions (health, long-term care, unemployment insurance and insurance for sick and elderly as well as wage taxes). For rent, he usually pays 500 Euro and more; a car is a necessity and causes high costs. One can say that the wages hardly suffice to get by, that is, to provide a living for a family.

By means of a "catalogue of horror" and redistribution programs of the state, the miner is squeezed further: Christmas pay was cut by 500 Euro; free coal was partly cancelled for apprentices and for future pensioners employed after July 1, 1982. Company bussing service was cancelled, fringe benefits for long-standing employees (??) reduced. Settlement houses for miners are sold or renovated combined with drastic rent increase. The state cut the mileage allowance, bonuses for nightshift and other bonuses are to become subject to full tax.

5) Drive to work

(Foil showing distances)

Due to transfers to other mines, most of the miners have to drive 30 kilometers and more in order to get to work. Thus, many of them frequently are out for ten to twelve hours. Overtime shifts are no longer paid, only percents. The shift must then be used up by taking time off later (??).


6) Flexibilization of working hours

(Picture of a struggle)

In 1959, with a march to Bonn (the then capital of West Germany), the miners fought against pit closures and for the five-day working week, which was gained in ....

Today, however, in spite of the 38 hour working week in the mining industry, it is no longer rare that a miner actually works 50 hours and more per week. Work on Saturdays and Sundays have almost become a rule.

Miners are granted 33 days' holiday in underground mining and 30 days' holiday above ground.

7) Revolutionary tradition

In the nineteen-fifties, the struggle against the pit closures was led mainly by the Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (Communist German Party, KPD), until it was banned in 1956. Subsequently, a real wave of purges against the communists was launched in the Mine and Energy Workers' Union (IGBE).

In order to erode the tradition of the revolutionary working-class movement in the mining industry, a well-contrived system of state subsidies, adjustment measures and social compensation plans was developed and established among the miners mainly through the reformist IGBE leadership. Accordingly, hardly any strikes occurred up to 1997.

8) The Mine, Energy and Chemical Workers' Union (IGBCE)


98 percent of the miners are organized in the IGBCE. When they got employed, trade union membership was simultaneously settled in most cases, too. It was definitely advisable to become an IGBCE member, because trade union officials can decide your career in the mine, are able to find cheap housing for you, etc.. It is a strength that the workers are not split into occupational groups or party-affiliated trade unions; However, the union leadership does not make use of this strength. Codetermination in the coal and steel industries became a downright obstacle to progress of the union. The IGBE was a "co-creator" of the Ruhrkohle AG, always doing everything for its benefit according to the slogan "If the firm is fine, the workers are fine, too." The IGBCE always aspires to the consensus between the RAG and the IGBCE, but not to the interests of the miners. In return, the palms of the IGBCE leadership levels are greased by way of seats in the supervisory boards, as personnel managers, leading positions in the housing administration, etc..

9) The big independent miners' strike in 1997

(Picture from the miners' strike)

In March 1997, an independent strike started at the Hugo coal-mine in Gelsenkirchen, which spread over the entire Ruhr area over to the Saar and which had a considerable impact on the German working-class movement. The cause was provided by former Federal Chancellor Kohl, who demanded the destruction of 70,000 jobs in the mining industry. The central slogan emerged, "Fatty must go."

10) Vortrieb ("Heading")

(Foil with "Heading")

This was when the miners' newssheet Vortrieb was born for all mines; until then, it had been edited by miners at the Hugo mine only. Vortrieb gained high confidence among the miners. It concentrates and summarizes the experiences and problems of the miners and makes proposals for what is important.

11) Miners for AUF

(Picture of miners or coal contract)

In the year 1999, the movement Kumpels für AUF (Miners for AUF) emerged, meanwhile KfA exists at all the coal-mines. It came into being through the electoral alliance of individuals, AUF (Alternativ – Unabhängig – Fortschrittlich: Alternative – Independent – Progressive) in Gelsenkirchen and, in the meantime, has constituted a basis for the formation of more local electoral alliances of individuals. The proposal for a new coal contract with demands to defend the jobs and trainee posts and social rights has meanwhile been signed by more than 10,000 people.

12) MLPD

(Picture of selling Rote Fahne)

The MLPD (Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany) is the only party with active party groups in the pits. Its members weekly sell its newspaper Rote Fahne in front of the gates of the different DSK locations. The SPD (Social-Democratic Party of Germany) used to have factory party groups, too, which have dissolved meanwhile. In the past, the SPD used to have strong support in the mines, but now this support slips like sand through one's fingers. (??)

13) Pointing forward in the struggle against the government

(Picture of demonstration of November 1, 2003)

Coal miners active in the struggle against the Schröder government

The class consciousness of the workers in Germany has awakened in the 1996 mass struggles for the maintenance of continued payment of wages in case of sickness, was increasingly politicized and is more and more directed against the government's profoundly anti-people program "Agenda 2010" that is intended to smash the social insurance system. This was expressed at the mass demonstration with 100,000 participants in Berlin on November 1, 2003, and at the mass demonstrations in Cologne, Stuttgart and Berlin on April 3, 2004, with more than 500,000; many miners were participating.

14) Great challenges

(Picture of miners on April 3)

... are facing the miners. Within the next few days, the RAG supervisory board is expected to make a decision on the future of national coal mining. More pit closures are announced. The miners are faced with the decision to organize a strike at all mines, to combine it with the struggle against the government and to raise their level of organization.