ZF Friedrichshafen

A Too-Greasy Wheel

Members of IG Metall, Germany's biggest trade union, are asking for higher pay.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    If the dispute at the works council at ZF Friedrichshafen continues, the focus may be more on the channeling of funding and struggles over power at the expense of company issues.

  • Facts


    • Since its takeover of U.S. competitor TRW in May, ZF is now the world’s third-largest car parts supplier.
    • In the last three years, ZF paid a number of invoices for seminars and printed materials that benefited the IG Metall labor union.
    • ZF Works Council Chairman Achim Dietrich-Stephan rose through the ranks to become one of the most powerful officials in the company.
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Achim Dietrich-Stephan, the head of the works council at ZF in Friedrichshafen, is a powerful, influential person at the car parts maker in southwestern Germany. And that’s the problem.

Mr. Dietrich-Stephan, also a member of the IG Metall labor union, is being accusing of exerting influence to benefit the labor union, at the expense of the company. He has alienated some members within the works council, who have petitioned a court to examine his actions, in particular, the funding of a labor union event last year.

That event involved a meeting at a hotel on Lake Constance of union representatives, all members of the works council of ZF, who had come together for discussions with works council head, Mr. Dietrich-Stephan, and IG Metall official Enzo Savarino.

The topic of the meeting was the works council election in two months’ time. There were plenty of questions: Who would be in charge of information booths? Who would handle promotional gifts? With which issues did the works council members intend to attract votes?

The IG Metall members had not spared any expense for their campaign. In the end, the seminar cost €17,682.07, about $20,000. Their ambitious goal was to secure all available mandates on the works council for the powerful industrial union.

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