As per the title: I am Italian but moved to Germany 5 years ago. I work full time for a German company and I registered with AIRE (this is a legal listing of Italian citizens living abroad: you basically "lose" your legal residency and social services but get exempted from some taxes). I got my Anmeldung, a bank account, a tax code and so on in Germany. But I am not a German citizen and I do not plan to apply at least for the foreseeable future.

Now my question: my fellow worker's interests are managed by ver.di and they are probably trying to convince some of us to enlist. I do not know how much it costs, but even before checking for this, I wondered if I can actually subscribe or if they can only accept German citizens.

  • 2
    Why would a union only accept German citizens? I suspect that they are forbidden by law from having such a requirement. That would be tantamount to legalized repression of foreign workers. If it were legal, it would certainly apply only to non-EU foreigners, since EU workers must be treated as equal within the EU.
    – phoog
    Sep 9, 2019 at 13:19
  • From what I understand I get the benefits (like advocating for a collective pay raise) and the "drawbacks" (when I was hired they sent my application, along with the pay grade to the internal worker's committee for approval) without any need to be a member, so I do not see in which sense "not being a member" would be limiting my rights - in fact a lot of my German colleagues are not members and they do not seem to suffer for that (while still getting the pay raise if the unions manage to negotiate one).
    – p.marino
    Sep 9, 2019 at 13:54
  • @p.marino this is true, just as there is no closed shop policy as there used to be in the UK. But it is also true where a Trade Union is weak, the working conditions and pay are worse (like Hotels). Sep 9, 2019 at 14:12
  • @MarkJohnson - agreed, this is why I am considering taking membership even if with my level of German it would just be a token gesture.
    – p.marino
    Sep 9, 2019 at 14:56
  • @MarkJohnson Tagging this with italy.aire is wrong. The question has nothing to do with AIRE (in fact the fact of membership could be removed from the question entirely without hurting it). Dec 2, 2019 at 16:27

1 Answer 1


Short answer:

Yes, anyone can join a German Trade Union independent of citizenship.

Gewerkschaften in Deutschland or Trade unions in Germany

Unions are considered to be social policy coalitions that are especially protected under the constitutionally guaranteed right of forming associations for the preservation and promotion of working and economic conditions. Agreements that restrict or obstruct this right are therefore invalid and illicit (Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany, article 9, paragraph 3).

The German text describes further that Trade Unions can take on different legal forms of clubs:

Manche Gewerkschaften organisieren sich als eingetragener Verein und sind deshalb juristische Personen des Privatrechts. Andere Gewerkschaften sind keine eingetragenen Vereine, werden aber – wie politische Parteien – dennoch als rechtsfähige Personenvereinigung behandelt.

As in most European countries, basic laws (including constitutional rights) are valid for all persons within the country (including visitors).

Club membership is therefore free for all.

A Club, however, can restrict membership, but only when such restrictions do not contradicts higher laws (such as Human rights conventions).

Being a registered resident can be such a reason. Past history of a person another.

In the case of Trade Unions, not only are foreigners welcome but also a portional representation as Trade Union Officials is considered desirable.

In most cases (and is for ver.di) , 1% of your regular pay, before taxes, is the normal membership fee

  • Thanks a lot - so that would be 1% of the MONTHLY gross payment, correct?
    – p.marino
    Sep 9, 2019 at 14:59
  • @p.marino Yes monthly , Bruttoeinkommen. Sep 9, 2019 at 15:01
  • Sorry but their FAQ is still a bit unclear to me, even after translating. Does it mean "1% of your monthly gross pay - every year" or is it "1% of your monthly gross pay - every month" ? this is a ... 12 times difference.
    – p.marino
    Sep 9, 2019 at 15:04
  • @p.marino it is based on your average monthly wage, which can also be deducted directly from you pay check (I payed mine directly if I recall correctly). Sep 9, 2019 at 15:08
  • What I mean is: assuming I have a 120000 EUR gross yearly wage, do I pay ... 100 EUR each month, or 100 EUR once a year?
    – p.marino
    Sep 9, 2019 at 15:14

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