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Fisher, Paul / Works councils in Germany

Union and works council relations under legislation since 1945,   pp. 8-11 PDF (1.7 MB)

Page 9

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Significance of Law No. 22
Law No. 22 expressly permits the unions to participate in
the preparatory committees for works council elections and in
organizing the elections. It also gives them the right to
nominate candidates from the employee roster. This provision
not only gives the unions a very significant initial advantage
but, even more important, secures for the unions complete
influence on the entire gestation of works councils.
Article VII provides that the works councils must exercise
their functions in cooperation with the recognized unions. This
section could become a powerful weapon indeed in the hands of a
skilful union lawyer. For example, one interpretation has been
that all actions of the works council, including the conclusion
of shop agreements, require union consent, i.e. union co-signature.
Where Law No. 22 was understood, it succeeded in substantially
increasing the union's hold on woris councils beyond the point
which the Law of 1920 per se would have made possible. The
Weimar Law (Arts. 8, 78e) merely stated, and rather ineffectively,
that works councils should act with due regard (im Benehmen) for
the views of the unions. The area of permissible works council
activities was severely restricted by Law No. 22, as in the
Weimar Law, in order to prevent dual unionism.
Significance of State Legislation
Some of the novel features introduced by Law No. 22 also
penetrated into State legislation. The importance of other
significant aspects of this law was not clearly understood by
the unions which failed to press for their adoption. Some State
laws, however, devised other means of increasing the union control
of works councils. A major device employed in State legislation,
besides that granting the unions the right to participate in council
elections (compulsory in Land Rhineland-Palatinate), is the
opportunity given for the union to attend works council meetings
and to address the employees at the quarterly general plant
In Hesse, for example, the union (and one-fourth of the union
shop stewards in the plants) may call a works council meeting
(Article 19 (2)) and a general assembly (Article 23 (3)). At the
general meeting, the union may initiate a move for the recall of
some or all members of the works council (Article 25). In contrast
to the Weimar rule which prevented the council from favoring union

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