Germany: Act on Collective Agreement Unity passes, divides unions

German trade unions split on new legislation – some trade unions file constitutional complaint

The Act on Collective Agreement Unity (Tarifeinheitsgesetz) was passed by Parliament and Federal Council on 22 May 2015. When the Act was signed by President Joachim Gauck, a number of trade unions announced that they would file a constitutional complaint: the Civil Servants Federation and Wage Union (dbb), its affiliate the German Engine Drivers Union (GdL)  and the Hospital Doctors' Trade Union (Marburger Bund).

The new legislation sets out this scenario:

  1. If two non-identical collective agreements from different unions in the same establishment conflict; 
  2. and this situation is challenged by one of the bargaining parties (employer or trade union); 
  3. then the result is that only the collective agreement of the trade union with the most members in the establishment will apply.

The Confederation of German Employers' Associations (BDA) welcomed the Act.

However, the trade unions are  divided in their reactions:

  • four affiliates of the German Confederation of Trade Unions DGB (IG BCE, IG Metall, EVG and IG BAU) support the initiative;
  • three other unions within the DGB (ver.di, GEW and NGG) reject the legislation;
  • dbb, a confederation of some 40 unions mainly in public services reject it, as does the Christian Federation of Trade Unions CGB, and the remaining occupational trade unions.

All the trade unions that reject the Act fear that it will limit their legal capacity to conclude collective agreements. There is also a wide-ranging legal debate about whether the new legislation hampers the right to strike: according to the law, strikes are only permitted for reaching collective agreements.


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