A trade unionist in body and soul

A trade unionist in body and soul

He is the senior citizens’ representative of IG metall in the kitzingen district. And that is somehow logical. Who else should take on this work than alois klebes??

His life is the union. He stands behind their goals, their values and he appreciates the community. The man from kleinlangheim has been a union member for 50 years, and his wife edith for 49 years. When asked whether unions will continue to be important in the future, the otherwise courteous and cheerful alois klebes looks at his counterpart as if he is not of this world. "Of course," he says then. "Just think of the IT industry. The poor guys have to be available around the clock. It is not possible."

Pioneering schafkopf evenings

Throughout his working life, alois klebes has championed the interests of employees. At the age of 24, he was already the chairman of the works council at the baumuller company in kitzingen, germany. He had previously learned at the company rothe. Every day he rode his moped from his home town of konigheim in tauberfranken to kitzingen. One hour there, one hour back. After the first winter, he took a room with the former locksmith of the fehrer company in the housing estate. In the evening, he played schafkopf with his works council chairman and his colleague from huppmann. Young alois got involved as a "brunskarter" – and got infected with the union virus. "We need a good and functioning counterweight to the employers," he is still convinced today. Without the unions, the gap between rich and poor would widen even further. He fought for workers’ rights throughout his active career. He describes the implementation of sick pay insurance in the 60s and 70s as a major achievement. "Today a matter of course."He also thinks back fondly to the introduction of the 35-hour week. "So we could save hundreds of thousands of jobs."

Sometimes pressure is the only way

The 69-year-old can well remember many a confrontation, demonstrations, rallies and tough rounds of negotiations. A fair argumentation was always important to him. Good preparation is crucial for success. His experience: "sometimes it only works with pressure."At the end of the 1990s, many companies wanted to leave the collective bargaining agreements – including his employer, for whom he ultimately rendered 43 years of loyal service. In the negotiations, they "threw big things at each other," he remembers. But the community has been a heavy pound for the unionists. "Kitzingen was like a gallic village," klebes recalls. Nearly 80 percent of baumuller’s workforce was unionized, and as many as 90 percent at the casting plant. "That helped us in the negotiations, of course," klebes says. On the union side, the then authorized representative walther mann had been in top form. The employer did not expect the threat of calling the entire workforce into the negotiating office within 15 minutes. "After four days, our employer was back in the collective bargaining agreement," klebes recalls, and speaks of the "most gentle victory as a unionist".

Of course, there were also defeats. The advent of contract labor still weighs heavily on alois kleber’s mind today. His demand: if you work full time, you have to be able to live on it. He thinks the increase in the minimum wage to 9.19 euros is a good thing. "But actually it had to be much higher," he says. "At least twelve euros." Better yet, it was paid according to collective bargaining agreements everywhere. "Then we wouldn’t need a minimum wage at all."

Pension as a perennial issue

He is most concerned about pension policy. "You have to be able to live on your pension," he demands. But in far too many cases, that is not the case. Those who have received only the minimum wage for 45 years are dependent on government benefits in retirement. The average pension for women is 654 euros. A scandal for alois klebes. "It’s not right that you have to beg when you’ve worked your whole life"."He knew a way out. "Why don’t we do it like the austrians??" He asks. There, civil servants and the self-employed also pay into the system and the contribution rate is significantly higher than in germany. The result: on average, austrians receive around 670 euros more in pensions than germans.

As senior citizen representative of IG metall, alois klebes stays on the ball, discussing these and many other issues with his members. He organizes one appointment per month. Between 30 and 50 of the total of around 500 members are from. The man from kleinlangheim still sees himself as a provider of information and support. A cure is rejected? Death benefits must be applied for? The 69-year-old helps. For almost 25 years, he has also given young members regular seminars on selected union topics. He has trained around 1200 participants. And infects many with the trade union virus along the way.