Until 1992 civil air traffic control in Germany was the responsibility of a Federal authority, the Federal Agency for Air Traffic Control (BFS). For forty years, members of the Association of German Air Traffic Controllers (VDF) had belonged to a professional association. Although it had a great deal of influence on the professional and technical development of air traffic control, its members had no union representation. The situation was similar for members of the former FTI (Association of German Air Traffic Control Technicians and Engineers). Therefore, following the privatisation of the German Air Traffic Control, a collaboration agreement was concluded with the DAG (The German Salaried Employees’ Union).

However, during the period 2001–2002 it became increasingly difficult for the DAG to represent and promote the specific occupational concerns of VDF and FTI members in relation to collective bargaining policy. This led to “our” union rejecting representation, or attempting to force substandard demands or agreements on the bargaining committee.

This situation created widespread dissatisfaction with the DAG’s representation in collective bargaining policy. At the same time, the merging of several unions merged to form ver.di, the largest union in Germany, was also viewed by many members with distrust.

Consequently, the existing collaboration agreements also had to be renegotiated, not least for reasons of textual consistency and legal certainty. By the spring of 2002, opinion in the associations had reached a point where they wanted the executive boards of the VDF and FTI to start talks with ver.di about redrafting the collaboration agreements.

The six months of negotiations with ver.di were fraught and not conducive to reach the desired outcome. By the end of September it was clear that ver.di was basically not only less flexible than the DAG had been, but that it was also not prepared to accept cooperation with the associations on an equal basis. Consequently, the national executive board of ver.di refused to vote in favour of signing the compromise agreement that had been negotiated by 30.09.2002.

Because the negotiating mandate of the boards had expired and any hope of reaching a satisfactory outcome had proved to be illusory, the associations terminated the collaboration agreements with effect from 31.12.2003.

The subsequent wage bargaining round with the DFS was conducted without representatives of the VDF and FTI, culminating in a deal that was negative for all employees. For those who had been unconvinced until now, this was the final proof that there was no serious alternative to forming an independent air traffic control union.

This led to the founding of the GdF e. V. and autonomy in collective bargaining.

Since 16.09.2017 the GdF has comprised of three specialist divisions:

  • Air Traffic Control Operational Services FSBD
  • Air Traffic Control Technical Services FSTD
  • Air Traffic Control General Services FSAD