Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2018, 20:36 GMT

2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Germany

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Germany, 8 June 2011, available at: [accessed 18 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 82,200,000
Capital: Berlin
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The main reason for concern is still the fact that civil servants do not generally have the right to strike, even if some initial success has been achieved. Despite solid industrial relations, some employers continue to be hostile towards unions. As a result, union members experience discrimination while some negotiations are held with yellow and unrepresentative unions with only limited membership.


The German Basic Law guarantees the right of association and recognises the right to collective bargaining. Implementing legislation regulates the right to union activity within a company, the general conditions for collective bargaining and compliance with collective agreements. Collective agreements are binding on the members of the corresponding union and employers' association. Civil servants, including teachers, do not enjoy the right to strike. The ILO has been calling on the German Federal Government since 1959 to grant the right to strike to those civil servants not fulfilling a role of authority in the name of the state. In this connection, employees with civil-servant status continue to be denied the right to collective bargaining, despite criticism from the ILO. However, civil servants covered by collective agreements are granted full freedom of association.


First important victory in the battle for civil servants' right to strike: Some significant headway has been made in the fight against the strict ban on strikes by civil servants. In an individual case, the Düsseldorf Administrative Court decided that teachers who gain tenure as civil servants should not be punished if they go on strike. With that, it set aside the disciplinary punishment in late 2010 of a teacher who had participated in a demonstration.

Collective bargaining: Germany has a long tradition of collective bargaining. However, over time opening clauses have been established in many sectors between the collective bargaining parties, making it possible for companies to deviate from collective agreements under certain preconditions, for instance to secure jobs. Where wage concessions have been made, it has been mainly in exchange for job security. One problem is wage and social dumping through collective agreements that were concluded by yellow unions with limited membership and hence little means to assert themselves. Slowly, doubts are being cast on this practice by the courts. The Collective Bargaining Association of Christian Trade Unions (CGZP) has for many years set low-wage standards in the temporary employment sector. In December 2010, the Federal Labour Court of Germany denied the CGZP the right to conclude collective agreements, on the grounds that it claims to regulate interim work for all sectors but does not have member unions covering all sectors.

Anti-union employers: Systematic discrimination by the state is unheard of in Germany. But despite a long tradition of unions, collective bargaining and co-determination, numerous companies show a lot of hostility towards unions. In such cases, external union representatives can be denied access to companies and employers can engage in anti-union propaganda. Moreover, employers are regularly discriminating against unions, resulting in dismissals, degradations, transfers and discrimination in the employment of active union members, especially those involved in establishing works councils.

In some cases, the 2010 works council elections were blocked by employers, e.g. at the concrete factory of Westerwelle in Herford. Ultimately, this backfired on the company Westerwelle. With voter turnout of 95%, the employees of Westerwelle clearly showed how important their voting rights for the works council were to them. Legally, such a blockade is not merely a petty offence but rather a criminal act, and one that is punishable with up to one year's imprisonment.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

Search Refworld