Is joining a trade union in Germany recommended? What you need to know and pay attention to!


Share post:

Those who are members of a trade union enjoy tangible advantages: support with problems in the company or at work, a wide range of educational, advisory and service offers as well as legal protection. The unions negotiate collective agreements. 

Trade unions in Germany: They influence legislation and throw their political weight on the scales in order to make the (working) world a little more just and social. That is reason enough to join a union. Below is an overview why you should consider joining a trade union.

The most important facts about trade unions in Germany

  • Trade unions aim to improve the working conditions of workers and especially their members.
  • They finance themselves through membership fees. The amount depends on the gross income of the respective member.
  • Trade unions are subject to special protection, which is anchored in Article 9 of the Basic Law.
  • As the largest German trade union, the German Trade Union Federation (DGB) is made up of eight individual trade unions.
  • As a union member, you benefit from various advantages, such as free legal protection insurance in the field of labor and social law.

What is a trade union?

Trade unions are committed to asserting employee interests vis-à-vis employers and in politics. 

What are the tasks of trade unions?

Among other things , you fight for collective agreements, higher wages and more vacation for your members.

By definition, a trade union is an association that advocates the economic, social and cultural interests of dependent employees . One of the biggest milestones achieved in the recent past was the implementation of the minimum wage of EUR 8.50 gross per hour in 2015. This is now € 9.82 (as of January 2022) gross per hour worked.

Which trade union is the largest in Germany?

The largest trade union in Germany is the German Trade Union Federation ( DGB ).

Which trade unions are there in Germany?

Trade unions in Germany

There are many different trade unions in Germany. These associations, which can be assigned to certain industries, have often joined together in larger umbrella organizations in order to increase their effectiveness.

The largest German trade union is the German Trade Union Confederation. It consists of eight member unions.

In 2018 the membership numbers of the individual trade unions of the DGB were as follows:

Individual union of the DGBNumber of members
IG Metall2,270,595
United service union (ver.di)1,969,043
IG Mining, Chemistry, Energy (IG BCE)632.389
Education and Science Union (GEW)279.389
IG Bauen – Agriculture – Environment (IG BAU)247.181
Food, Beverage and Restaurants Union (NGG)198.026
Police Union (GdP)190.931
Railway and Transport Union (EVG)187.396

▶ There is also the German Civil Service Federation, the Christian Trade Union Federation, and associations with fewer members such as the Marburger Bund. These unions do not belong to the DGB.

Advantages of being a member of a trade union

trade unions in Germany

1. Better protected against dismissal

The German study “Trade Union Membership and Dismissals” by Laszlo Goerke and Markus Pannenberg shows that union members have a lower risk of dismissal. Calculated over the year it is 1.3 instead of the usual 3.6 percent. One of the most important reasons is the free legal protection that employers prefer not to test.

2. Financially secure in the event of a labor dispute

In the event of a strike, union members receive strike money. In this way, possible wage cuts during the time off work can be cushioned.

3. Trade union supports in disputes

Everyone benefits from higher wages and better working conditions. In order to enforce this, however, strong unions are needed. The more members the union represents, the better its bargaining position. So being a member also means showing solidarity with your colleagues.

4. Good opportunities for further training

Trade unions are very committed to their members and organize, for example, camps and sporting events. There are also many offers in the area of ​​professional development, especially for younger members.

5. No good collective agreements without a strong union

Everyone benefits from higher wages and better working conditions. In order to enforce this, however, strong unions are needed. The more members the union represents, the better its bargaining position. So being a member also means showing solidarity with your colleagues.

6. The only way to participate

There is a right to co-determination through the works council. Many decisions at the top of the company are not possible without him.

7. Union enables discounts for events and Co.

Unions offer industry-specific perks. The spectrum ranges from special insurance to travel offers. 

8. Always well informed

The trade unions’ trade magazines provide targeted information from the employee’s point of view on all developments in the respective industry. The focus is on practical tips. At the same time, contact persons for professional concerns are named.

9. Solid network

Unions form their own network. That can help if you want to reorient yourself or if your relationship with the boss is broken. Contacts through the trade union are at least as helpful in a professional context as a broad network through XING or LinkedIn. Most of the time, the union is much closer to the action.

How do you become a trade union member in Germany?

trade unions

Once you have picked a union that you would like to join, it is a good idea to read its statutes and find out how you can best approach your project. As a rule, it is noted here that you have to submit a written declaration of membership. Often times, you don’t have to go to the trouble of writing these yourself, but can instead become a member online on the union’s website .

What information does a membership form ask for? Usually the following data is required:

  • Time at which the membership should start
  • First and Last Name
  • address
  • Phone number
  • E-mail address
  • birth date
  • nationality
  • kind of employment
  • Place of operation
  • monthly gross income
  • Account details for SEPA direct debit mandate

If the membership application is approved, you will be given a membership card with which you can prove that you belong to the union.

Why do you have to pay a trade union fee?

Unions take on a wide range of tasks that require funds to finance . The members of a union must therefore do their part. You can find out how high the membership fee is in a union in the statutes . The minimum amount that is required of you is noted here .

In Germany, union members do not pay the same amount of money across the board . A distinction is made between the financial possibilities of the members :

  • People who complete an apprenticeship or who work full or part-time are usually asked to pay 1 percent of their gross income .
  • In the case of unemployed people and people on parental leave , the union usually demands a minimum amount of 2.60 euros per month .
  • Pensioners who do not receive basic security have to shell out around 5 euros per month.

Given that the amounts involved are relative, those who earn a lot more pays than those who are rather short of money. The statutes also state by what time the money must be transferred. If you don’t want to issue a direct debit mandate , you can usually settle your debt in cash by going to a union office.

Can you leave the trade union if you choose?

If the goals of the trade unions can no longer be reconciled with your interests or if the membership fee is simply too high for you, you can decide to terminate the contract at a later point in time and thus to resign .

You do not have to state why you want to leave the union when you resign . Make sure, however, that you usually have to formulate your request in writing . In addition, membership cannot usually be terminated overnight, as a period of notice must be observed .

You can find out how long this period lasts with the help of the statutes or by calling the union. Attention: Often only a quarterly termination is possible , which is why you should think about when you would like to leave. In the worst case, you will have to pay the union your membership fee for a full three more months.

Expaturm aims to help educate Expats in Germany on key issues that they will have to deal with while living in Germany by providing everything you need to know about Banking, Healthcare, Lifestyle, and Housing in Germany


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related articles

The new German coalition government will abolish unemployment benefits (and introduce a Citizen’s benefits)

Citizen's benefits income instead of unemployment benefits II: Real reform or a nicely colored name? The new German coalition...

Do you know that you can get money back on your holiday according to the Frankfurt table?

If you've ever had travel issues at Frankfurt, you'll be familiar with the phrase "How to get your...

The Reshaping of Germany: The 7 things that the new German coalition government will do

IMMIGRATION, CLIMATE, COAL, PENSION, SPEED LIMIT: This is how the so-called "Ampel Duetschland" coalition government will turn Germany...

Why Expats in Germany should get household insurance

Household insurance (Home contents insurance) is one of the most important private insurances in Germany. It provides coverage if...