© 2004
Interview with Gernot Hahl, EWC chairman at Linde

FotoFotoQuestion: Why was a re-establishment of the EWC necessary at Linde?

Hahl: The decisive point was the take-over of BOC by Linde in the year 2006. The European forum of BOC had to be integrated into our EWC. Initated by the Linde EWC negotiations started at the end of January 2007, we presented a draft and included English colleagues of the BOC European forum in the process, too.

Question: How did you built up contacts to the English colleagues?

Hahl: Through IG BCE trade union – since our approaches through the British HR management did not go ahead so well, and one had put us off repeatedly, we did not get information either and the communication did not work. We have met with the unions IG BCE, T&G and the colleagues of the European forum and exchanged our ideas. We noticed quickly that the previous mode of operation at the European forum was different to the Linde EWC.

Question: Which topics received special priority?

Hahl: The new agreement was negotiated by the old EWC of Linde, of course with the approval of the English colleagues, because the European forum of BOC was dissolved automatically with the purchase. It was important for the members of the European forum of BOC that they are represented as strongly as possible in the EWC. Our priorities lay primarily with the frequency of meetings, the information exchange and a good relationship between workers' representatives on the one hand and between EWC and management board on the other hand. Since the company has its head office in Germany after the merger, it is important that the EWC chairmanship remains in Germany to be able to better use the advantages of the German participation system.

Question: What is special in the new agreement?

Hahl: Compared with other large companies it is the impressive number of 28 EWC members. In addition, the agreement allows three meetings per year which are interpreted simultaneously in nine of the 14 EWC languages. Our documents are also translated into all languages of the EWC members. Furthermore the steering committee of the EWC can meet any time if we consider it necessary and we can exchange views with the management. And: our EWC consists only of elected workers' representatives. Not to forget the training provisions, and every member has access to a PC, telephone and fax. The British colleagues did not have this before.

Question: How does one obtain such a result at the EWC negotiations?

Hahl: We have negotiated in this way from the beginning and have started out from the standards, which we had before. Orientation point in our demands was always the German Works Constitution Act. The German management had even limited understanding for this, the British management held back. However, we would not have accepted another result.

Question: What are the upcoming plans?

Hahl: The constituting meeting takes place in November 2007. We for example do not have any contact with Romania yet although we already took care through the trade unions in Brussels. At present the German trade union IG BCE is trying to find partners in Romania which is difficult, though. At the beginning we will organize a seminar to get to known to the industrial relation systems in the countries concerned.

Gernot Hahl (47) was the chairman of the former EWC at Linde. The skilled locksmith works in the Linde gas plant in Worms since 20 years. He founded the local works council in 1988, since then he is the chairman. In 1994 he was elected to the central works council and became its chairman 5 years later after the outsourcing of the gas division. Since 2005 he was deputy chairman of the EWC and since January 2007 he is the chairman of the German group works council of Linde. Gernot Hahl is a member of the German Mining, Chemical and Energy Industrial Union IG BCE and workers' director in the supervisory board of Linde.

Gernot Hahl was interviewed by Kathleen Kollewe on August 7th, 2007.

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