Hospitals, schools, nurseries, retail, railways, public services, they all have one thing in common in 2023: workers are fighting for higher wages and better working conditions in the face of unprecedented inflation rates. They are supported by the trade unions, and the most visible means of pressure is strike action. There is often little understanding for this among the population.

But does it always have to come to a strike? What do trade unions do? And what happens in the collective bargaining talks between unions and employers? We have developed several simulation games on the topic of collective bargaining and strikes for different target groups, three of them this year alone, 2023. 

The locations are universities, an automotive supplier and a railway company. Here, the participants put themselves in the place of unionised employees or representatives of the employer's side, who struggle in several rounds for a collective agreement. The union members form a collective bargaining committee, discuss and decide on demands, while the management formulates offers. Formal and informal phases alternate. Who will prevail in the end with which demand? Which strategy and which arguments are more effective?

Pupils and students thus experience in a playful way what applies to the 49 per cent of employees in Germany who work in a company covered by a collective agreement: that it can be worthwhile to stand up together for one's interests. However, the only way is through compromise because the other side also has powerful arguments. 

Simulation games also open up valuable learning spaces for trade unionists themselves. On the one hand, they offer insights into the structure, processes and rules of collective bargaining, on the other hand, they can be used as a preparation tool for the "real" negotiations.

The experiences from our previous trade union simulation games show: Negotiations are tough, and when it comes to money, nothing is given to each other. In some of the games, creative elements such as action planning or social media teams are used to loosen things up. For groups inexperienced with the topic, we have developed interactive introductory modules. The joint evaluation after shaking off the roles then not only offers the opportunity for reconciliation, but also takes a look at trade unions and industrial action in reality. Maybe strikes still bug you afterwards, but maybe your understanding of them is a bit greater. After all, industrial disputes are protected by the Constitution.

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