Version 3.2

Conversion towards a Just Transition?

Debates on alternative production and their potential for labour’s strategy in the transformation of the German automotive industry

The German car industry is transitioning away from internal combustion engines in response to new regulations and market developments. This process engenders economic pressure on suppliers, which are often dependent on the combustion engine. The market-driven impetus for industrial restructuring amongst suppliers coincides with the ecological necessity to move beyond car-centred transport systems. This may open a window of opportunity for industrial conversion towards socially useful and ecologically sustainable goods that are needed in a degrowth society. In this conversion process, the role of labour is crucial and ambiguous. This paper sheds light on past and present engagement with conversion from the perspective of industrial workers organized in the German union of metal workers (IG Metall). IG Metall has a history of environmental turns and conversion initiatives. We compare present shopfloor and union engagement in response to engine electrification at a big German supplier with past conversion debates and initiatives. Thereby, we enhance the understanding of the potentials and barriers for conversion initiatives on the plant level and the role of union strategies therein. The paper answers the following research question: Which are the decisive factors for the success or failure of conversion initiatives on the plant level and how do they relate to IG Metall’s engagement with social-ecological challenges? Thereby, one gains a better understanding of labour’s potentials and limits as actor for ecologically sufficient and socially just transition of the car industry as well as for a wider degrowth transition along the lines of a veritable circular economy.


Day: 2023-08-31
Start time: 16:30
Duration: 00:15
Room: ZV-8-4
Type: Paper Presentation
Theme: Resilience building through degrowth


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