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2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Germany

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Germany, 6 June 2012, available at: [accessed 24 November 2017]
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: 82,300,000
Capital: Berlin

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Murders: none reported
Attempted Murders: none reported
Threats: none reported
Injuries: none reported
Arrests: none reported
Imprisonments: none reported
Dismissals: none reported

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher


Civil servants still do not generally have the right to strike. Despite solid industrial relations, some employers remain hostile towards unions. As a result, union members experience discrimination, while some negotiations are held with yellow and rather unrepresentative unions with only a limited membership.


In 2011, the German government positioned itself in the centre of efforts to address the Eurozone crisis, though it came under criticism for pushing austerity at a time when the economies of several countries are contracting and high rates of unemployment have led to mass demonstrations in several European capitals. Unemployment was lower in Germany than in other European countries, largely due to active labour market policies that helped shield workers from the brunt of the crisis – policies which were successfully advocated for by the trade unions. Additionally, efforts at labour law reform were staved off, unlike in other countries in Europe where deep reforms were imposed. There has been, however, a marked increase in precarious work, though trade unions are actively working to establish limits on temporary agency work and other temporary employment. After the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the DGB, together with its eight member unions and a broad coalition of NGOs, advocated for a new direction in the energy sector away from nuclear to renewable energy. In 2011, human rights groups appealed for law enforcement to more effectively investigate and prosecute hate violence.

Trade union rights in law

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.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

No statutory right to strike for civil servants: Even though the Düsseldorf Administrative Court ruled that teachers who gain tenure as civil servants should not be punished if they go on strike, the legislator has taken no recognisable initiative to at last enshrine civil servants' right to strike in the law.

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 circumstances, for instance to secure jobs.

Where wage concessions have been made, they have mainly been offered in exchange for job security. One problem is wage and social dumping through collective agreements concluded by yellow unions or unions with a limited membership and hence limited ability to assert themselves. Labour courts are increasingly casting doubts on this practice.

One such pseudo union, the Collective Bargaining Association of Christian Trade Unions (CGZP) has for many years set low-wage standards in the temporary employment sector. After the Federal Labour Court of Germany denied the CGZP the right to conclude collective agreements and thus rejected its trade union status, Berlin's regional labour court confirmed that all collective agreements concluded by that union were invalid.

In a similar case, the regional labour court in Hamm ruled that the Trade Union Wood and Plastic (GKH), an affiliate of the Association of Christian Trade Unions, does not have the right to conclude collective agreements. For years this pseudo union concluded collective agreements throughout Germany agreeing low wages, long working hours and poor working conditions with employers' organisations in the carpentry, joinery and model-making 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, for example, can be denied access to companies, and employers may engage in anti-union propaganda. Moreover, employers are regularly seen to discriminate against unions, resulting in dismissals, demotions, transfers and discrimination regarding the recruitment of active union members, especially if they strive to establish works councils.


No entry for this country for this year

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