German union to organise prostitutes

23rd April 2004, Comments 0 comments

23 April 2004 , HAMBURG - Germany's mighty Verdi trade union launched a major drive Friday to reach out to workers in the oldest profession - prostitutes. Kicking off a weekend extravaganza at the Hamburg Museum of Labour, union representatives will stage seminars and workshops on union programmes covering health, tax consultancy and legal aid. The agenda includes a happy hour and banquet with entertainment provided by a musical cabaret act. While many in the union have doubts about whether ladies of the n

23 April 2004

HAMBURG - Germany's mighty Verdi trade union launched a major drive Friday to reach out to workers in the oldest profession - prostitutes.

Kicking off a weekend extravaganza at the Hamburg Museum of Labour, union representatives will stage seminars and workshops on union programmes covering health, tax consultancy and legal aid.

The agenda includes a happy hour and banquet with entertainment provided by a musical cabaret act.

While many in the union have doubts about whether ladies of the night will ever actually become card-carrying trade unionists in Germany, the event reflects growing acceptance of prostitution in the country.

It also reflects concerns amongst trade unionists over their dwindling influence in Germany. Union membership is at an all-time low and even the traditionally union-friendly Social Democratic Party (SPD) is at odds with the unions these days as Germany attempts to rejuvenate its economy.

Traditional unions must look to non-traditional sectors to find new members.

"We don't expect hordes of prostitutes to come running to join the union," says Emilija Mitrovic, who heads the Verdi prostitution field study unit.

"But the union feels there is a wide array of issues where the union could be helpful and I was assigned to the field study," she says.

"And for those women who want out of prostitution, we are there to provide support. Verdi can also be a political lobby for getting legislation favourable to these women, especially in the area of immigration laws."

This being a German trade union, union members are strictly categorized, and the prostitution field study group comes under the "Special Services" category which also includes travel agents, funeral parlour workers and security guards.

No pun was intended when the prostitutes were categorized under "special services", Mitrovic stresses.

"Of course, we're looking for new members. We want to whet their appetite (with the weekend conference). We are convinced that the union would be good for prostitutes. For one thing, we can provide legal aid, and that is a major concern," Mitrovic points out.

In Stuttgart, for example, prostitutes are required to hand over EUR 25 a day in advance-payment taxes. That case is currently before the courts. Tax consultants are attending the weekend conference to discuss that case and others of interest to prostitutes.

"We are even working to come up with a sample employment contract that might be applicable to prostitutes, spelling out the conditions of their employment," she says.

"What we're talking about basically is a job description, one that stipulates working hours and vacation time and such, as well as rate of pay," Mitrovic says, noting that courts can only rule on such matters if they are spelled out in writing in a contract.

"Such a contract could also stipulate that the employer pays for regular medical examinations and, in event of illness, for unscheduled visits to the doctor," she says.

"It could also determine how much of her money is set aside for retirement benefits," she adds.

Whether such contracts ever come into being, Mitrovic says she feels prostitutes can only benefit from associating themselves with a large trade union.

"Unions are all about improving the lot of the working man and woman," she says. "That's what we're here for."

DPA

Subject: German news 

 

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