The German Education Union (GEW)

GEW is the education sector union affiliated to the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB). We organise educators and teachers in schools, universities, early childhood education, vocational training and adult education.
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Members of the GEW are women and men, teachers, educators and researchers, working different types of schools, universities, academic and research institutions, in adult education, social and cultural work, vocational and language training or other forms of teaching. The GEW is a trade union for a professional community. The vast majority of our members are academics.

Independence and autonomy
The GEW is an autonomous and independent trade union in terms of funding and party politics (like all trade unions in the DGB). It is by far the biggest organisation in the education sector in Germany with 270,000 members. Not all our members are currently employed and amongst those who are employed there are many part time workers. We also have many members who are retired, unemployed or students. Trade union membership in the education sector ranges from 15 to 50 per cent, depending on the region and the teaching profession. GEW not only attends to the salaries and social interests of its members. As an education union we also play a vital role in campaigning and implementing education reforms.

The GEW confronts change
Almost seventy per cent of the GEW’s members are women. The GEW has been working for years, through its policies on women and gender, to ensure that women are properly represented on its committees and in its activities. The age structure of our membership has shifted dramatically in the last decades. We have grown older. To recruit new and younger members GEW has been investing in services that will appeal to beginners in the profession, with membership campaigns and new GEW structures for young members.

What can the GEW offer to members?
Trade union services to our members in the field include legal support, social and professional advice, a wide range of information and continuous training and, of course, back-up if it comes to a dispute: The GEW provides financial and legal support for members on strike. Our members are also covered for professional third party liability by a trade union insurance policy. In addition to these and other services, members at local, regional and national level can take advantage of a broad spectrum of training courses and wide-ranging opportunities to participate in debates about social and education policy.

Who decides in the GEW?
The trade union policy guidelines are adopted by the trade union assembly. This is a congress of 432 GEW delegates from all over the country that is convened every four years. The day-to-day priorities for trade union work are agreed by the Executive Committee (80 members) and implemented by the Executive Board, which consists of eight members working full-time for the GEW. Within the GEW an important role is played by the 16 regional organisations, each with their own executive committee, based in the 16 German federal states. This is due to the federal structure of government in Germany. The federal states are competent to make their own decisions in many fields of policy. That is why many major decisions, notably with regard to schools and universities, are not taken in Berlin but in the regional capitals. So the GEW needs strong structures with the confidence to pursue their objectives in the 16 federal states.

GEW International
The international work of GEW is carried out by the National Executive and the Executive Board. Responsibility here lies with the President. Agreement and unity in the trade union movement have always been key to achieving greater influence and campaigning successfully for our goals. That is why the GEW takes an active part in Education International (EI). EI has about 30 million members, making it the largest Global Union Federation in the world.

Our main fields of international work are:

  • Education for all - participation in the Global Campaign for Education
  • Fair childhood - elimination of child labour
  • Human and trade union rights
  • Support for trade unions suffering repression
  • Cooperation between trade unions in North and South
  • For a social Europe - promoting trade union policy within the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE)

The GEW also maintains important bilateral links that have grown over the years into reliable partnerships, e.g. with EI affiliates in Israel and Palestine, Turkey, the United States, Nicaragua and Burkina Faso.

Our ties are especially close with education unions in neighbouring EU countries and Scandinavia. Another major focus is dialogue and understanding with trade unions and their members in Central and Eastern Europe. Our commitment to human and trade union rights is also reflected in our international work. In 1981 the GEW set up the Heinrich Rodenstein Fund to assist teachers and researchers faced with persecution.

President of the GEW

Marlis Tepe is president of GEW and responsible for international issues.


GEW Contact

International Secretary
Manfred Brinkmann
Tel.: +49 6978973310

Office Manager
Karin Gaines
Tel.: +49 6978973311


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