Berlin (dpa) – The long-standing chairman of the German Trade Union Confederation ( DGB ), Dieter Schulte, died on Saturday night at the age of 82. This was announced by a DGB spokeswoman on Sunday in Berlin. The trained bricklayer and later union official headed the umbrella organization from 1994 to 2002, which now consists of eight individual unions. The trade union federation paid tribute to him with the words: “He was a trade unionist with heart and soul. The DGB owes him a lot.”
Schulte was born on January 13, 1940 as a working-class child in Duisburg. He went through a classic trade union career: He joined IG Bau at the age of 17, then switched to IG Metall and later became a shop steward and works council in the Thyssen Group. In 1991 he made the jump to the board of IG Metall.
In 1994, the influential metal workers’ 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 still had more than six million members. Schulte was considered a pragmatic reformer. He advocated fixed-term employment contracts, a flexible collective bargaining policy and the reduction of non-wage labor costs.
Critics accused the SPD member of taking too friendly a course towards employers and the government. He led the DGB in times of a coalition between Union and FDP as well as under red-green. After eight years, Schulte did not run for another term in 2002. He handed over the chief 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 chair has been a woman for the first time, the former SPD general secretary and member of the Bundestag Yasmin Fahimi.
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