Can a BA student join CA

Why should I join a union while studying? Why it makes sense to organize.

At first it sounds counterintuitive to organize as a student in a union. In German-speaking countries, trade unions primarily act as actors in collective bargaining policy. This means that they negotiate with employers the conditions under which employees in a sector are trained and work for their companies. This is then recorded in a contract with the employer. Often it revolves around wage increases, wage groupings, contract terms, vacation entitlement, Christmas bonuses, continued wages in the event of illness - to name just a few examples.

[1.] What this has to do with the course is perhaps most clearly shown in the teacher training course. The fellow students are trained here for their later wage work in the schools. And of course it makes sense to be able to have a say in the conditions under which work is to be carried out later. Especially when you consider that teachers now often only get annual contracts and are regularly allowed to report to the employment office as unemployed during the summer holidays. But also the other way around: If the desired seminars at the university are overcrowded or you don't even get a place, sensible preparation for the future job seems to be a long way off.

[2.] The other courses of study can also be viewed from this perspective. Here, too, the conditions under which studies are carried out are preparation or training for performing qualified wage work - be it in business in the social field or in research and teaching. Fighting for co-determination rights over one's own employment and training relationships is the core business of the trade union. Trade unions can offer the organizational support they need to improve their own training relationships and make full use of the scope available. And now let's be honest: Even the legislature recognizes that studying is an apprenticeship if it pays out the Federal Training Assistance Act (BAföG) to students. So why shouldn't we as students see it that way and organize ourselves in unions?

In unter_bau, the study conditions working group (AK) is already devoting itself to the attempt to demand improvements in studies in such a way that courses in demand are offered more frequently and, at the same time, to struggle for better supervision levels in the seminars. However, it is not important to fall into the trap: Courses with limited participants, in which only a few can participate, or even a numerus clausus, which excludes many even before studying, are not the solution. It still applies: there are not too many students, but too few teachers.

[3.] Even for those who want to try their luck at university, the poor support situation in many seminars has negative effects on their own academic training. There is no time at the entrepreneurial university for a debriefing of the homework or permanent supervision. This is particularly important for those who do not have an academic network that could absorb this. Here, the course is laid during the course of studies as to who can get one of the contested master’s or doctoral positions and who cannot. Here, too, you can either extend your elbows and hope that you can get through without burnout or you can try to implement systematic improvements in organized contexts. The study conditions of today are the teaching conditions of tomorrow. It is high time to think across the board and to act together with the doctoral candidates and academic staff. The substructure with its associative concept is an attempt to make this possible.

[4.] Many students have to work for the semester fee, rent and, of course, their own livelihood through wage labor already during their studies. Of course, university education should be free. However, this is not real. In addition, the zombie “general tuition fees” with the black-yellow coalition in North Rhine-Westphalia and the racist tuition fees in Baden-Württemberg will soon be back in Hesse. For many students, this should mean that they have to invest even more time in wage labor instead of their own studies. A business degree in which the students are allowed to study for a maximum of nine semesters (maximum period of study) can then only be completed with the help of loans or parents. It is therefore worthwhile in real terms either to increase your own hourly income or to reduce the costs of your studies. That means making improvements in your own workplace and drawing up plans to prevent the general tuition fees.

When it comes to lowering the costs of one's own studies, however, there are other relevant actors that can be taken into account. While the number of students is increasing, the funding of student [sic!] Works by the federal states has been stagnating for years. As a result, rental prices for dormitories are rising and the construction of further dormitories is stalling. [1] The rent strikes of the students in London show that union means can be used here. [2] And why not think about the municipal housing association ABG right away? A grassroots housing union would be innovative. But quite feasible with an organization behind you. Demanding a collective right of representation in tenancy law would be a state-of-the-art policy. [3] To declare the reproductive conditions to be a trade union battlefield would be the possibility to increase the degree of organization and thereby also to actually improve the living conditions of the people.

[5.] Student staff are often confronted with complex problems. Initially, their contracts are limited to six months (if at all). As a result, some positions, such as tutorials, are only offered in one of the two semesters in the department and then in some cases are only paid for in the semester. In the other semester or during the semester break, the assistants then have to look for another job.

The time limit also creates problems for "permanent tasks". The uncertainty as to whether my professor will take me on in the next semester can be worrying. Mainly because he * she does not have to give notice or give any reasons. That would be different with longer contracts. A termination would require a reason and there would be a notice period. You can also legally challenge the termination. Unfortunately, this will not work when the contract expires. The argument that is often used here is that third-party funding only allows temporary positions.

Judging by the fact that the university management pushed this form of financing further and, as a foundation university, helped to create this factual situation itself, this can be described as a bit strange. But be it so, if the assistants organize themselves well, the university management just has to see how they can accommodate the improvements that are required. That's how lobbying works. Oh yes, in Berlin the contracts of student employees are limited to at least 24 months. It seems to work here somehow. With a collective agreement.

The position of the student employees, however, is not improved by the fact that they are not represented by the works council of the university in Hesse, cannot vote it and there are no student works council representatives. Works councils represent the interests of employees within a company vis-à-vis the employer. They are elected and are then released from work. This gives them the time they need to represent the interests of the employees. You can be called in to employee appraisals, have a say in changes to the work structure and can even block dismissals. To be excluded from representation by the works council has a concrete impact on your opportunities in the workplace. GEW and ver.di were able to fall back on such a student works council for organizing and planning strike in the collective bargaining disputes in Berlin. So it is high time in Frankfurt a. M. to demand a student works council. Trade unions are the actors who historically have fought for works councils. So let's go!

Student employees are also excluded from the collective agreement that applies to university employees who have not yet been outsourced. As already mentioned above, wages, vacation, length of fixed-term contracts, fixed-term limits and continued payment of wages in the event of illness are agreed in collective agreements beyond the statutory basic security. In 2016, the volunteer initiative at Goethe University was unfortunately only able to achieve a voluntary commitment by the university with its campaign for a collective agreement for auxiliaries. [4] In addition to the fact that the wording is vague anyway, this voluntary commitment, unlike a collective agreement, cannot be legally demanded. So it's not that far with duty here.

In a collective agreement, one could also overturn the distinction between student assistants with and without a B.A. degree. In real terms, this distinction often simply means that assistants with a B.A. degree are paid better per hour, but since there is no more money for the position anyway, the assumption is simply made that they would work more effectively and therefore need less time. So more work in less time for the same pay. Even a better degree is of no use to you. An adjustment of the wages of all student assistants to those of assistants with a B.A. degree and a realistic arrangement of the hourly quotas must therefore be central demands of the assistants.

In addition, wage increases can be linked to those of the other status groups here. The student assistants in Berlin have long had a collective agreement. Here, the colleagues fought for this link because they had no wage adjustments 17 years ago. [5] So we see here: Even with collective agreements, there is no guarantee that they will be improved further and that it needs a trade union organization to ensure these improvements. However, one should definitely distrust a commitment.

However, the coupling also has a strategic advantage. Through them, the auxiliary workers in Berlin can act together with the other status groups the next time and thus bring more strike mass into the collective bargaining disputes. In Unter_bau we are currently working on a powerful student and assistant union that could achieve just such a link in order to then implement joint improvements in working, teaching and study conditions in the next step with the other status group sub-unions and thus with increased effectiveness .

[5] The living environment of students does not only consist of working, rental and study conditions. These are mixed up both in structures and in actual everyday life with discrimination based on gender, alleged origin or sexual orientation. Not being taken seriously in everyday life or at work, receiving bad sayings, being discriminated against, excluded or treated aggressively, often leads to an individualization of those who had to endure the discrimination. The general strike of women on March 8th, 2018 in Spain shows how these (classically more political) struggles and trade union struggles can go together. Here the cooperation of feminist groups and grassroots unions led to the demand for an eight-hour strike. After a number of mayors * expressed their solidarity and the social democratic unions advocated a two-hour strike, around 5 million people ultimately took part in the strikes and demonstrations. [6] Under_bau could also be the organizational support to use union methods to fight political struggles.


[1] Action alliance against tuition fees (2014): Student contributions to the student unions, o.V., Berlin.

[2] Taylor, Diane: University students across London take part in rent strike, in: The Guardian, May 6, 2016. Online: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/may/06/university-students-across-london-take-part-in-rent-strike

[3] Konun, Ferdi: On a new level. The idea of ​​trade union social organization. Considerations and theses on tenant organization, May 27, 2012, in direct action. Anarcho-syndicalist newspaper, Halle (Saale). Online: https://direkteaktion.org/211-gewerkschaft-als-mieterorganisation/

[4] Autonomous auxiliaries Frankfurt: Statement of the auxiliaries initiative on the failure of collective bargaining at the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurt Main: 2016. Online: http://hiwis.tumblr.com

[5] TV Stud: Demands. What we ask for - why we ask for it. The TV Stud III position paper, Berlin: 2017. Online: https://tvstud.berlin/lösungen/

[6] Coppens, Julian and Nichols Dick: “When we strike, the world stands still” - How the Spanish women's strike was a success, in: Luxemburg: Gesellschaftanalyse und left Praxis, June 2018. Online: https: // www. zeitschrift-luxemburg.de/wenn-wir-streiken-haben-die-welt-still/


Timo Schmidt
Member of the union unter_bau and assistant professor at Goethe University Frankfurt.
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