Works Councils / Employee Participation
Collective Labor Law disputes and resolution proceedings
Under German Employment Law, there is a special procedure for collective Labor Law disputes laid down in the German Labour Court Act (ArbGG): The resolution proceedings. Most typically, the main focus of these proceedings are disputes between the employer and the works council. As in ordinary proceedings, the court may schedule a concilitory hearing prior to the main resolution proceedings. In contrast to ordinary employment proceedings, the court is bound to the principle of ex officio examination. Proceedings are generally free of costs – the extrajudicial costs shall be borne by the emplyoer in accordance with the provisions of the Works Constitution Act (BetrVG). Generally speaking, these rules also apply to expats in Germany.
Employee participation and the Works Council
A works council has, under German Employment Law, various rights of participation in the employer’s business units: E.g. to be heard before any termination, to participate in certain individual personnel actions (the consent may be replaced by a judicial procedure) as well as genuine participation rights in measures related to the distribution of working time, overtime, introduction of certain technical equipment, health and safety regulations, salary structure, and many more. For the latter subjects the employer will try to reach a company agreement (Betriebsvereinbarung) with the works council. If an amicable agreement fails, both parties may call in a company conciliation committee (Einigungsstelle). If necessary, the implementation of this committee can be enforced through the Labor Court. The judgment of the conciliation committee can only be challenged within 2 weeks after delivery. In addition to those right, the works council has several enforceable rights in regard to corporate restructuring.
Another specific institution under German Employment Law is the participation of employees on the supervisory board of a joint stock company (AG), a limited liability company (GmbH), a registered cooperative (eG ) or a Societas Europaea (SE). This is primarily regulated in the Co-determination Act 1976 (MitbestG) and the One-third-participation Act (DrittelbG): In every German corporation (in one of the named legal forms) with more than 500 regular employees one third of the board seats have to be granted to representatives of the employees. In companies with usually more than 2000 employees, 50% of the board seats have to be granted to representatives of the employees. A slight predominance of the stockholders in case of a dispute results here only based on some procedural provisions.
Collective Labor Law disputes and arbitration
The measures of industrial disputes are, under German Employment Law, strikes and lockouts. It can be noted, that – compared to other European countries – strikes happen relatively rare in Germany. One reason for this are the institutionalized arbitration proceedings (Schlichtungsverfahren) that can be initiated by the bargaining partners, i.e. trade unions, employers’ organizations and employers, in case collective bargaining fails. If the arbitration proceedings also fail, a strike ballot is the necessary prerequisite for a legitimate strike. The then permissible countermeasures of the employer would be a lockout of the striking employees or a complete shutdown of operations without continued payment of salaries.
German Lawyer in Collective Labor Law
Our German Law qualified Labor Lawyers are ready to enforce your claims related to German Collective Labor Law or to defend your business against such claims by a works council or a trade union. In German Labor Law, Attorney Dr. Christian Zeller persistently represents your interests before all German Labour Courts as well as before conciliation committees and in arbitration proceedings.
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