Fisher, Paul / Works councils in Germany
Council-employee relations, pp. 33-35 PDF (1.5 MB)
- 33 - COUNCIL-EMPLOYEE RELATIONS The responsibility of the works council to the employees was defined in the 1920 law only in the formal sense that certain duties were incumbent upon the councils. Under the law, however, except for the annual elections, the employees had no practicable check by which they could regularly keep informed on council activities and express their views on past performance and future plans. Control Council Law No. 22 introduced an effective means by which the employees could exercise a direct influence on works councils in the form of a compulsory quarterly assembly of plant personnel at which the respective council must report on its activities to his constituents. This requirement has been reaffirmed in most German Land laws concerning works councils. Works assemblies differ with respect to the importance of their accomplishments, with the run-of-the-mill meeting being rather disappointing from this point of view. Although the assemblies, which are conducted during working hours with no loss of pay, are well attended, hardly any discussion normally follows the formal report by the works council chairman and the address delivered by a union official except in those instances where Communist Party members use the occasion for their particular purposes. In one case observed, however, the skilful council chairman stimulated a very lively and constructive discussion from the floor through his imaginative handling of the meeting. In any event, the quarterly assemblies appear to serve the purpose of keeping the works council chairman aware of his responsibilities towards the employees. Other convenient means of contact between the works council and the employees are to be found in council notices and announcements, 'which are usually posted on bulletin boards, the opportunity to visit the works council during its office hours, and by the visits which many works councillors make throughout the particular plant. In large enterprises, the problems of maintaining close contact with the employees and of reducing the inevitable social distance between the council and the rank-and-file are often present. While the problem of contact is somewhat relieved by the union shop stewards who are an important link between the council and the employees, the question of social distance defies a simple solution. In being protected by law against dismissal, works council members tend to be set apart from the rest of the working force. This is particularly true of those council members who are relieved of their job and who perform the necessary office work incumbent in the discharge of their council duties.
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