Protection against rationalisation agreed for Allied Forces' civilian employees

On 25 April 1997, after 27 days of strike action, the ÖTV, IG Metall, IG Medien, NGG and DAG trade unions and the German Ministry of Finance, on behalf of the Allied Forces, struck a collective agreement on protection against rationalisation for civilian employees at the Allied Forces in Germany. Here, we outline the main characteristics of industrial relations for civilian employees at the Allied Forces in Germany and report on the major results of the negotiations.

Industrial relations for civilian employees at the Allied Forces

In March 1997, the US, British, Canadian, French, Belgian and Dutch Allied Forces stationed in Germany employed around 30,000 civilian employees. Due to the end of the cold war and the resulting closure of bases and reduction of troops by the Allied Forces, civilian employment fell from 105,000 in 1985 to 75,000 in 1991 to 31,000 in 1996. Civilian employees typically work in jobs such as office staff, transport and storage staff, mechanics, security staff, firefighters, technicians, electricians, cleaners and caterers.

Members of the armed forces stationed on the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany in accordance with the NATO Troops Statute, together with the civilians connected with them, enjoy extraterritorial rights. According to Article 56 Ia of the Additional Agreement to the NATO Troops Statute (Zusatzabkommen zum NATO-Truppenstatut, ZA) of 1959, the employment relationship of civilian employees at the Allied Forces is subject to the same labour law regulations as the employees of the German Federal Armed Forces (Bundeswehr), except for special service regulations, establishment agreements and collective agreements.

The employers' function at the Allied Forces is carried out as follows. In general, the Allied States are the employers of the civilian employees. However, without having employer status, the German authorities: establish - in agreement with the troop authorities - the conditions of employment including wages, salaries and pay grades; conclude collective agreements; and arrange the remuneration procedures (Article 56 V ZA). Dispute of Rights regarding the employment relationship and the social security relationship are decided by the German system of labour courts. Legal actions against the employer have to be brought against the Federal Republic, while legal action by the employer has to be taken by the Federal Republic (Article 56 VIII ZA). Civilians employed by the Allied Forces are not covered by the provisions of the works constitution legislation; the regulations on staff representation in the public sector apply to them (Article 56 IX ZA), but until 1993 they had virtually no co-determination rights. In 1993, the Amendment Agreement (Änderungabkommen) to the Additional Agreement fundamentally extended the co-determination rights of civilian employees at the Allied Forces, who since then enjoy nearly the same co-determination rights as civilian employees at the Bundeswehr.

Collective bargaining at the Allied Forces

The competencies for interpreting, and making legal amendments to, Article 56 ZA lie with the Foreign Ministry. All functions to be performed by the German authorities under of Article 56 ZA are executed by the Federal Ministry of Finance (Bundesministerium für Finanzen). On the employers' side, the Federal Ministry of Finance negotiates on behalf of the Allied Forces. However, collective bargaining policies are determined by the Allied Forces, and, in general, are not oriented towards the German public sector. The paybill (DEM 2.05 billion in 1996) is entirely borne by the Allies. In collective bargaining, the employees are represented by the following trade unions: Gewerkschaft Öffentliche Dienste, Transport und Verkehr (ÖTV- public services and transport), which takes the leading role; Industriegewerkschaft Metall (IG Metall- metalworking);Industriegewerkschaft Medien (IG Medien- printing and media); Gewerkschaft Nahrungsmittel-Genuß-Gaststätten (NGG food, drink and catering); and the Deutsche Angestelltengewerkschaft (DAG- independent white-collar workers' union). There is one collective agreement which covers all employees. It provides for framework regulations, pay grades, and remuneration.

The 1997 dispute and the 1997 collective agreement

Due to the end of the cold war, the Allied Forces are closing bases and reducing troop numbers in Germany. The background to the 1997 collective bargaining process and the later dispute was the plans of the Allied Forces to restructure their operations in Germany. Measures include rationalisation, privatisation and outsourcing. The unions opposed these plans for the potential job losses which they suspected were entailed. Instead, the unions demanded a collective agreement on "protection against rationalisation" for the civilian employees employed at the Allied Forces since 1995. This agreement should provide for a "socially adequate" framework governing the employers' plans on rationalisation and privatisation. After positive union ballots at the end of February, unlimited strikes started on 3 March 1997. The strikes, involving on average roughly 2,000 employees, lasted 23 days until 26 March 1997. After the first bargaining round proved unsuccessful, talks were adjourned until 23 April 1997. Strikes continued from 22 April until 25 April.

After two days of negotiations, a collective agreement on the protection of employees at the Allied Forces in the event of rationalisation, and on additional payments in case of dismissal due to the withdrawal of troops (Schutztarifvertrag), was agreed on 25 April 1997. It covers around 30,000 workers and employees at the Allied Forces in Germany and includes the following:

  • improved entitlements to, and an increase in, interim payments;
  • a stronger obligation on the employer regarding the entitlement to housing of employees in case of job loss;
  • an extension of the duration of additional income security payments in case of transfer. If a transfer is not possible, there will be redundancy with compensation for job loss;
  • paid leave for training in case of rationalisation and privatisation; and
  • continuation of the regulations regarding protection against dismissal for employees of many years' standing.

In a ballot, the agreement was accepted by the members of the negotiating trade unions. Now, collectively-agreed regulations regarding redundancy and the protection of jobs for the Allied Forces' civilian employees include the following three sources:

  1. The collective agreement for civilian employees at the Allied Forces in Germany (Tarifvertrag für die Arbeitnehmer bei den Stationierungsstreitkräften im Gebiet der Bundesrepublik Deutschland), which, amongst other items, provides for rules regarding protection against dismissal which exceed the standards provided for by labour law.
  2. According to the collective agreement on social security of employees at the Allied Forces (Tarifvertrag Soziale Sicherung), the Federal Government provides financial grants for older employees to protect their standard of living.
  3. The new 1997 collective agreement on protection against rationalisation (Schutztarifvertrag).

Commentary

At first glance, the collective agreement on protection against rationalisation at the Allied Forces looks like an ordinary agreement covering some 30,000 or so employees. However, when going more into detail, the picture changes significantly and offers interesting insights into the complexity of industrial and employment relations in niches of the German model of industrial relations which are less exposed to the public. The most interesting features of industrial relations at the Allied Forces are the unique combination of rules governing the employment relationship, the complex attribution of the performance of the employer's functions to different actors and the multi-union bargaining unit. (Stefan Zagelmeyer, IW)

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