The importance of Art. 9 (3) Grundgesetz for the establishment of trade unions in Germany
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It had to be recognized that employers and employees are not in an equal relationship Gamillscheg, , p. Hence in labour relations we can observe an inequality of negotiation power.
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For the creation of an equal relationship with fair results for both sides there needs to be a counterbalance for the workers against the stronger position of the employers Foster, , p. For gaining this power workers need to associate. Such associations of workers are called unions. Trade unions are defined both by reference to their membership and their purposes. Since the Second World War trade unions play an important role in the conduct of industrial relations in Germany Foster, , p.
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Especially bigger companies like Volkswagen , Siemens and Ranstad have such collectively negotiated agreements Keller, , p. The different unions in Germany are organised in the umbrella organisation Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund German Federation of Trade Unions. This matter is closely linked to the legal questions arising from collective agreements and strikes Freckmann, , p. After presenting the wording of Art.
As the right to associate is of utmost importance for people and had been denied in the past, the right to form unions and the right of collective negotiations is guaranteed in the German Constitution by Art. The official translation by the German parliament, the Deutscher Bundestag , is as followed:. The right to form associations to safeguard and improve working and economic conditions shall be guaranteed to every individual and to every occupation or profession. In comparatively large-scale establishments, moreover, there are shop stewards of industrial unions Vertrauensleute , and they fulfil the role of relaying works council decisions to workers in each workplace, and at the same time gathering opinions at the workplace and conveying them to the works council.
In reality, therefore, works councils could be said to have traditionally functioned as corporate branches of industrial unions. Specifically, in these works, the unionization rate is relatively high, while the majority of members of works councils are union members, and below them, many shop stewards belonging to industrial unions support the works council.
Thus, an extremely close-knit relationship between industrial unions and the works councils was evident. Turning next to the situation of internal decisions on working conditions in the two establishments visited, both relied on regulation by industry agreements with regard to substantial working conditions such as wage amounts and prescribed weekly working hours, according to their respective work rules that govern basic working conditions as a whole.
Conversely, on internal order and other social matters subject to co-determination rights, detailed norms had been established in those work rules.
Thus, their respective roles were clearly divided between matters to be regulated by collective agreements and those to be regulated by works agreements, based on the work rules in the two establishments surveyed. One of the objectives of this Research was to verify whether or not the parties engaged in industrial relations at workplace level in Germany make use of the aforementioned opening clauses in industry agreements, particularly in connection with wages and working hours, a crucial aspect of collective agreement policy; and if they do, how they fix flexible working conditions based on these.
Of course, it is not that flexible working conditions are not fixed at all at company and workplace level; rather, in both of the workplaces surveyed, the regulation of working hours in particular, extensions of prescribed weekly working hours differed from that specified in industry agreements. Nevertheless, the aforementioned supplementary collective agreements are supposed to be used here also as a tool for deviating from this, and thus works councils and employers alone are not able to deviate from regulations in industry agreements.
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Seen in this light, there is certainly a phenomenon in Germany whereby flexible working conditions in relation to wages and working hours are fixed at company and workplace level, rather than depending only on provisions in industry agreements. Next, in Chapter 2, German company collective agreements were studied from the angles of both legal theory and actual situations.
As a result, we may conclude that there is no particular restriction under German law when labor unions conclude company agreements with individual employers. Turning to the actual situation, the first point is that agreements concluded at individual companies have traditionally been used by several major German corporations, such as Volkswagen.
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Of course, the phenomenon of decentralization cannot be found there, in the sense of compromising the ability of industry agreements to fix labor conditions laterally across companies, since better working conditions are normally fixed there than in industry agreements. This is certainly a change that was not previously seen in the German system of collective industrial relations. As such, they do not function as tools for fixing labor working conditions in a form significantly departed from the content specified in industry agreements.
Seen in this way, it would appear appropriate, at the present time at least, to respond negatively to the question of whether the authority to fix working conditions, retained until now by parties engaged in labor relations at industry level in Germany, could be undermined by company level agreements in future. The Minimum Wage Act provides for the first statutory minimum wage system to be applied uniformly in Germany. Under its provisions, from January 1st, onwards, all employers that employ workers in Germany must pay a wage no lower than the statutory minimum wage amount until December 31, , this will be 8.
Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Explore Now. Buy As Gift. This implies the freedom of individuals to negotiate contracts without any interference of the government. If one party has more or better alternatives than the other, the result is more likely to be unfair and inequitable Blum, , p.
This matter is closely linked to the legal questions arising from collective agreements and strikes Freckmann, , p. After presenting the wording of Art. Product Details.
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