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trade unionist
Former DGB boss Dieter Schulte passed away

Dieter Schulte was head of the German Trade Union Federation from 1994 to 2002.  Photo: Michael Jung/dpa

Dieter Schulte was head of the German Trade Union Federation from 1994 to 2002. photo

© Michael Jung/dpa

Dieter Schulte headed the DGB for eight years. Critics in his own ranks accused him of being too pragmatic towards the federal government. Schulte is now dead.

Dieter Schulte, the former chairman of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB), passed away on Saturday night at the age of 82. A spokeswoman for the DGB announced this in Berlin on Sunday. The trained bricklayer and later union official headed the umbrella organization from 1994 to 2002, which now consists of eight separate unions. The trade union federation paid tribute to him by saying: “He was a trade unionist with heart and soul. The DGB owes him a lot.”

Schulte was born as a working class child in Duisburg on 13 January 1940. He enjoyed a classic union career, joining IG Bau at the age of 17, then moving to IG Metall and later becoming a shop assistant and works councilor in the Thyssen Group. In 1991, he made the leap to the board of IG Metall.

In 1994 the influential metals union proposed him as his successor after the cardiac death of the then DGB chairman Heinz-Werner Meyer. In June 1994, he was elected head of the trade union federation, which at that time had more than six million members. Schulte was considered a pragmatic reformer. He argued for fixed-term employment contracts, a flexible collective labor agreement policy and the reduction of non-wage labor costs.

Critics accused the SPD member of being too friendly towards employers and the government. He led the DGB in times of a coalition between Union and FDP and under red-green. After eight years, Schulte stopped running for a new term in 2002. He handed over the head post to Michael Sommer. He later became one of the deputy heads of the SPD-affiliated Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

According to the DGB, it still has about 5.7 million members today. Since May, the chairman has been a woman for the first time, the former general secretary of the SPD and member of the Bundestag Yasmin Fahimi.


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