6. Unions: what do they do?

As you’ve been reading this brochure, you’ve probably already noticed that unions will stand up for you and your rights during your training. We’ve already given a few examples: legal support in labour law disputes and support in training problems. Even this brochure is part of the programme; “Your Training Rights” – as you can only exercise your rights for yourself and your colleagues if you know them well.

One of a union’s main tasks is to ensure that rights of protection for trainees and employees are actually upheld in practice. Unions work closely with works councils and staff councils, and youth and trainee representation bodies. To this end, it is important to create transparency about applicable rights, and provide initial legal council and legal support. Trainees can access the online advice portal www.doktor-azubi.de to get answers to questions as well as tips for solving problems.

The second most important task of a union is to enter into tariff contracts, which include agreements about money, holidays, work times and employment after training. These regulations are generally more generous than legal regulations – by law, adult trainees are allowed to work up to 48 hours per week, whereas most tariff contracts limit this to 35 or 39 hours per week.

However, tariff contracts only apply if your employer has agreed to them and if you are a member of the relevant union. As there are many different tariff contracts, you should contact your union and inquire as to whether you are subject to a tariff contract and what that means for you. If you are affected by a tariff contract, you should become a member of the union. Because: the more members a union has, the stronger it is – making it more likely to negotiate better tariff deals for trainees, employees and employers.

Since the start of industrialisation, employed workers – including trainees – have come together in unions to fight for their interests: better working and living conditions. Unions are open to everyone; trainees, students, workers, salaried employees, and the unemployed. The most important principle behind unions is solidarity – coming together to support each other and negotiate interests. Thats why it’s important that as many employees as possible are actively involved in the union.

In order to fulfil these tasks and to provide each and every member with a competent local contact partner, unions often have regional points of contact.


Which union is right for me?