In 2012, the “Works Constitution Act” celebrated its 60th birthday. Published in the Federal Law Gazette on 11 October 1952 and thoroughly reformed in 1972, the Act is still the centerpiece of employees’ co-determination rights in German companies and, up to the present day, the subject of many court rulings. For example, this year alone the Federal Labor Court had to decide on the following in light of the Works Constitution Act: A works council’s claim to internet access via a non-personal “group account”; the scope of a works council’s statement on upcoming mass layoffs within a conciliation of interests agreement without a list of names; the appeal against a works council’s election due to violation of fundamental rules governing the electoral process; and the replacement of works agreements after a transfer of business.
The Works Constitution Act also governs, among other things, the representative body for young workers and trainees, the election of which takes place every two years. The body is elected by the company's young workers under the age of 18 and employees in professional training (apprentices, interns, students) under the age of 25. It has no rights vis-à-vis the employer, but its activities are closely related to the works council’s work with which it represents the interests of young workers. Recently, the Federal Labor Court dismissed a works council’s lawsuit in which it claimed reimbursement of lawyers' fees from the employer for the (separate) legal representation of the representative body for young workers and trainees before court. The Court ruled that the representative body for young workers and trainees is not an independent member organization.
Within the collective bargaining rounds this year, trade unions have tried to enforce salary increases for the employees concerned of 6% or higher. Conflicts and industrial action took place throughout Germany. Eventually, some new collective bargaining agreements were concluded, inter alia with a salary increase of 4.3% for the Metal and Electrical Industry, 2.9% (2012) and 2.5% (2013) for the Banking Industry and 4.5% for the Chemical Industry.
Siemens, its company works council, the Industrial Union of Metalworkers (IG Metall) and IndustriALL Global Union signed a Global Framework Agreement on principles of social responsibility in the Summer this year. In this agreement, Siemens committed itself to fundamental workers’ rights, such as equal opportunities and freedom of association and collective bargaining for its employees all over the world. And the German trade unions called for solidarity on the first European Day of Action on November 14, 2012. In times of globalization, collective labor law is increasingly not only a national question, but displaced to a European and even global level. It remains to be seen how this development will progress in 2013 and the following years and how it will influence our national system.