Before dinner – in the lecture hall, after dinner – in the office. Such a life is not uncommon for students in Germany. Inquisitive statisticians have calculated that two-thirds of them have a regular part-time work, and most of them also have time to pass at least one internship during their studies.
For several decades, German trade unions have defended interests of working youth and were actively cooperating with universities. This help is not entirely disinterested: Thanks to this, the trade union ranks are continually joined by new members.
Legal Support and Not Only
"Hello, in my free time I work as a waitress for 450 euros per month. For the summer holidays, I would like to find another extra work, what tax class will I have then? Can I have two jobs, or leave the one where salary is higher? Advise me, please, an ultimate solution so as not to pay taxes at all!" – Jane writes on the forum. And a day later gets a detailed answer with a list of laws and links to useful sources.
An online platform for advising young people on social and labor law is available on the website of the youth branch of the German Trade Unions Association DGB-Jugend. The questions from students seeking help come every day here. We cannot say that they are very diverse: everyone is interested in, first of all, the amount of tax or insurance payments, the right to receive scholarships, holidays, or child allowances for young parents.
However, DGB-Jugend is not limited to free virtual consultations. Representatives of the association are open in more than fifty cities, and information centers work in many educational institutions. In addition, the organization is actively engaged in the social and political education of students. Regular seminars on such pressing issues as gender equality and rejection of racial discrimination, or a project designed to attract young people to the elections to the European Parliament, is an important part of the work of the association.
Students of All Specialties, Unite!
The head association DGB-Jugend includes eight German trade unions, each of which has a department for work with students. All of them are focused on workers employed in a particular industry. For example, one of the largest unions Ver.di protects the interests of service workers, IG Metall – industry and information and communication technology, and IG BAU – construction, ecology, and agriculture.
In the trade union of education and science workers, GEW - there are even two departments for youth: the federal student committee (BASS) with representations in all federal states and the youth union (Junge GEW). The first supports students and graduate students, and the second protects the rights of young teachers and educators up to 35 years.
The union started cooperating with universities in the 70s. Today, its work involves about eight thousand students. And their number is constantly growing, says Andreas Keller, deputy chairman of GEW, in an interview with DW.
Today – a Student Card, Tomorrow – a Trade Union
Active and motivated students are a tempting target group for trade unions. Standard methods of attracting, for example, information brochures, are not enough, so every semester GEW issues a newspaper for young people Read.me, which is distributed free of charge in all universities of the country.
The effectiveness of this approach – the union as a link between the institution and the workplace – is realized by other associations. In this way, the industrial trade union IG Metall regularly conducts excursions and conferences for future engineers and informatics and also actively participates in exhibitions and career fairs. Through this channel, students can get the desired internship or find out what the starting salary is in a certain position.
The students of dual training programs pose a special interest for trade union organizations, so that where the general education course is adjacent to a compulsory professional training at the enterprise. Having joined the ranks of the trade union, such students in advance provide protection of interests in the future and are given the opportunity to jointly influence labor conditions and wages.