A few months ago there was a lot of coverage about the "betriebsrat" or works council process at SAP. I wrote about it, as did most of the German newspapers. There was some nonsense written, especially in the foreign press and in the blogsphere about SAP being unionised…
The elections took place this week.
The irksome thing for most employees is that they were asked to vote in a election for a council that they don't want..
There was no violence (however, being Germany, they may have been some pushing in the queues to vote) , no evidence of fraud, and there was no recount, no problems with chad.
and so far, no need for any multi-coloured coalitions.
65% of the people eligible to vote did. I'm not sure what the other 35% were doing, hopefully they were too busy writing code, not watching the football. Here is the formal announcement
There has been quite a bit of reporting on the election today and yesterday, mainly in the German press. The vast majority of the elected council are anti-union, and the union types only got a couple of people on the council. (3)
I missed the Napoleon Dynamite candidate. (Actually, come to think about it, a lot of developers do look like and dress like him, and having been to some parties here, I can vouch that the dancing styles are remarkably similar…)
I'm not sure what difference it will make to the state of affairs here in the asparagus fields. The real winners of the election were probably the local tee-shirt company and the brochure printers. So, we now have a works council just like almost every other German company with more than one employee, a filing cabinet and a stamp.
An analyst from Ovum tries to make a story out of this, commenting…
However, something has changed in Walldorf. Once the undisputed centre of SAP's global expansion, employees have started to become more unsettled. They cannot fail to notice the increasing importance of SAP's US and Chinese operations and the rising number of non-German managers – which is only a natural development in a globally acting enterprise. Out of the newly created jobs in 2005, 1,300 were in Asia, 900 in the US and 400 in Germany, while 100 administrative jobs were moved from Germany into a Shared Services Centre in Prague. This is understandable food for thought. But these issues will not be stopped by a German workers' council; they could even be made worse!
I'm not sure that IT analysts should be the ones commenting on the significance of works councils. Line 56 then tries to make even more out of it.
My view: SAP's management and employees have a better grasp of the dynamics of globalisation than they are given credit for. The election results illustrate clearly that the vast majority of SAP's German employees understand that globalisation is part of SAP's strength and not something to be afraid of.
The German press coverage is better at explaining the implications of the results.
Die Welt: Unions well beaten off…
Handelsblatt: SAP votes for " the old system" – (meaning a rejection of the unions)
German FT. Den Sieg als Durchbruch für die Gewerkschaftssache zu verbuchen, trifft es nicht. Letztlich kommt es für ein Unternehmen weniger darauf an, ob es einen Betriebsrat gibt oder nicht, als darauf, inwieweit dieser kooperiert. Die SAP-Unternehmenskultur lässt da wenig Probleme erwarten. This is not a victory for the unions. The question for a company is not whether there is or isnt a works council, but how they cooperate. The SAP organisation culture means that we dont expect any problems. (translation very rough)
The most remarkable thing about this whole business is that it took 30 odd years for three blokes to ask for a works' council.