How powerful are unions

The DGB unions can still hope to remain unrivaled in many collective bargaining. The Federal Labor Court (BAG) overturned a decision by the Hamburg State Labor Court on Tuesday in Erfurt. Two years ago, this had granted the "Deutscher Handelsgehilfen-Verband" (DHV) the right to conclude collective agreements. The Hamburg judges should now deal with the matter again, decided the First Senate of the BAG.

For decades there have been several criteria in labor law to determine whether a union is powerful enough to bargain collectively. This is not intended to guarantee a monopoly to large unions like Verdi or IG Metall. Rather, it is about preventing employers from secretly setting up or funding pseudo-unions with which they would then have an easy time in negotiations. Courts check, for example, whether a trade union has a significant number of members (whom it could call for a strike), or whether it has an efficient organization made up of full-time employees, mainly lawyers and collective bargaining experts, who have already negotiated collective agreements on a regular basis .

The regional labor court had found three reasons to consider the DHV to be a union

The DHV is a member of the Christian Trade Union Federation. According to its own statements, it has 14 unions with a total of 280,000 members. The DHV claims to have 73,000 members, the focus is on trade, banks and insurance. He was successful before the regional labor court for three reasons: The judges there found that an organization that had concluded around 24,000 collective agreements since 1950 had proven its potency. Second, the law on collective bargaining, which has been in force for three years, made strikes of smaller unions more difficult - therefore one can no longer deny them power by arguing that they have too few members to be able to effectively threaten a strike in a conflict. Thirdly, employers have fewer opportunities than before to determine wages unilaterally since the general statutory minimum wage was in place.

The Federal Labor Court rejected this argument. The Hamburg judges "wrongly assumed that the requirements for the performance of the DHV with regard to the minimum wage and the collective bargaining law have been lowered," says the press release on the decision, but without further justification. And the Erfurt judges also did not allow the 24,000 collective bargaining agreements since 1950: The DHV had concluded contracts "partly outside of its area of ​​responsibility". For them, the decisive factor is how many members a union actually has in which industries - the state labor court is now to determine this thoroughly.

Verdi is happy about the decision, but a lawyer says: "It's a shame."

IG Metall and Verdi, among others, as well as the states of Berlin and North Rhine-Westphalia had sued in the proceedings. The deputy Verdi boss Andrea Kocsis said on Tuesday evening that for her "the information" from the DHV on the number of members "was in no way comprehensible". She was pleased that this should now be clarified. The Munich lawyer Wolfgang Lipinski from the employer-related law firm Beiten Burkhardt, however, said that the BAG was unfortunately sticking to its "excessive" requirements for membership. "It's a shame," he said. The laws on minimum wages and collective bargaining guaranteed functioning collective bargaining.