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Introduction 2

1.0 THE BACKGROUND of the crisis of the 1970S 2
1.1 The symptoms of the crisis 2
1.11 The slowdown of the growth rate 2
1.12 An inflation rate of double digits 3
1.2 The shocks bring complications 3
1.3 Structural factors worsening the situation 3
1.31 Demographic changes 3
1.32 The crisis of traditional industries 3
1.33New needs and new values 4

2.0 LIMITATION OF THE TRADE UNIONS’ ABILITY TO mobilisE WORKERS in France and Germany: The “de-unionisation” 4
2.1 Fall in numbers of days lost by strikes 4
2.2 Fall in trade unions membership 4

3.1 The socio-economic factors 5
3.11 The disappearance ofthe secondary sector to the profit of the service sector. 5
3.12 The casualisation of work 6
3.13 Unemployment 7
3.2 Socio-cultural impediment to French and German trade union. 8
3.21 Feminization of the work place 8
3.22 The “Free-Rider movement” 9
3.23 Change of perception of trade union by the workers 9
3.24 Rigidity of trade unions 10



Since the Second World War, until the around the 1970s, the Western world became accustomed to the idyllic growth of the post-war ‘golden years’ which it presumed to be perpetual. Consequently, full-employment would be assured ad vitam aeternam and Kondratiev’s spectrum of cyclic crises was no longer a reflection of modern economics[1]; the Keynesian theoryprovided an empirical confirmation of its triumph through political and economical success. However, since the first oil crisis in 1973, the occidental world has been forced to revaluate the sustainability of their economic model as a result of growing economic interdependencies beyond their control.

At first sight, it seems that trade unions in France and Germany[2] do not have a lot in common:pluralism of trade unions (by law, five confederations [CGT, CFDT,FO, CFTC, CFE-CGC] have an ‘incontestable presumption’ of representativeness[3]) with a strong political dimension in France compared to a unitary structure and a lack of political dimension in Germany. However, a closer examination reveals that trade unions in both countries have several analogies[4]. Indeed, one analogy is thecontinuous erosion of trade union membership; in both countries, the trade unionism rate has never been so low. Another shared observation is the reassessment of their utility. This crisis in trade unionism occurred since the 1970 and since then, trade unions have never recovered their initial strengths.

The purpose of this essay is to compare the way in which the economic crisis of the structuralchange of the 1970s impacted on the organisation and mobilisation capacity of trade unions in France and Germany. The following section will examine the different factors that have been at the root of, and provoked the crisis, followed by an examination of the facts that show the different impacts of the crisis on trade unions in France and Germany. The third section will consider how the crisisaffected trade unions’ organisation and their mobilisation capacity.

1.0 THE BACKGROUND of the crisis of the 1970’s

The crisis marks the end of the growth of Fordism; the vicious circle of the crisis has replaced the virtuous circle of growth.

1.1 The symptoms of the crisis

1.11 The slowdown of the growth rate

The 1970s can be characterised by the slowdown of the growth rate: thegrowth rate of industrialised countries fell under 3%. On average, the growth rate oscillates 2.5% between 1973 and 1980 against 4.9% between 1950 and 1973[5].

1.12 An inflation rate of double digits

Inflation exists since the Second World War but is accepted as it maintains growth through low interest rates and the increase in purchasing power. However, from 1967 inflation increases and...