What are the laws regarding trade unions?

Employment contract, collective agreement and law

In Germany labor law is divided into two main parts - individual labor law and collective labor law. Individual labor law and collective labor law consist of several parts. Several laws form the basis for employees and employers. These include:

  • the Part-Time Temporary Employment Act
  • the General Equal Treatment Act
  • the Dismissal Protection Act


The BGB has a binding effect on employment contracts. The employment relationship is closely related to the underlying employment contract, a general collective agreement or a company collective agreement. In addition, there are numerous employee protection regulations. The supplementary aspects of labor law can be found below

Employment contracts are very different from one another. The formal requirements are mandatory, but the contracting parties still have a large amount of room to negotiate the content. Differences result from time limits, vacation entitlements, the associated income and working hours. The contracting parties draft contracts freely, since employers rely on the freedom to draft contracts. This is an integral part of the legal system. According to this, every natural person concludes contracts at their own discretion and with whom they want. The yardstick is good faith. Because of this freedom, a number of rules are required to prevent the contract from disadvantaging one of the contracting parties. Occupational health and safety measures and legal requirements are in place for this.

There is an imbalance in the relationship between employee and employer. Due to the financial dependency and the decision-making power of the employer, this symbolically stands above the employee. For this reason, workers come together to form trade unions. Together they represent their economic, social and legal interests. One of the most important means of the unions are inter-company collective agreements. As a rule, unions work on a sector-specific basis. The industry does not necessarily deal with a single professional group. Rather, there are often several professions in one division.

One form of the collective agreement is the shell collective agreement. The counterpart of the unions on the employers 'side are employers' associations. Accordingly, employers' associations and trade unions conclude a shell collective agreement. Shell collective agreements are mandatory for the contracting parties. In contrast to other collective agreements, shell collective agreements contain provisions on general positions. These relate to termination regulations, working time regulations or surcharges for overtime. Special working conditions such as night allowances or shift work are also the subject of these contracts.

There are separate collective agreements for many parts of the employment contract. One example is the wage and salary collective agreement. The content determines the grouping of the recorded occupational groups in wage classes. Collective wages are minimum wages. Within a valid collective agreement, the employer does not deviate at the expense of the employee. The duration of employment and age come into question as differentiating characteristics for the wage classes. If such a contract exists, the contractual partners sort the specific employment relationship into one of the groups. To do this, the employer must consult the works council. This is where the Works Constitution Act comes into play. It regulates an essential part of the work of the works council.

The following principle applies to all collective agreements: The contract becomes binding and mandatory provided that the collective agreement is binding on both contracting parties. In addition to the local bond, it is important that the employee also falls personally into the scope. If the collective agreement does not apply to an employer, there is still the option of integrating the collective bargaining agreement into the employment contract by means of a clause. If the employer leaves the employers' association, this does not automatically mean the end of the binding effect. The collective agreement continues to apply until the point in time at which the contractual partners regulate the situation again. In order to reorganize the relationship, a new employment contract or a new collective agreement can be considered.

Other collective agreements determine labor law. Framework collective agreements are characterized by a long term. They describe the job characteristics of the employee. In addition, they contain the necessary qualifications for a job. You determine which groups of employees fall into which category. Employers also conclude company collective agreements. This employer is not regularly a member of an employers' association. In order to create clarity with regard to the production facility and economic strength, he nevertheless concludes a contract with the trade union. This only applies to the company.

If the employee adopts the criteria of the association tariff in this contract, the collective agreement is called the recognition collective agreement. Professional associations conclude an association collective agreement on the employers' side. The tariff eligibility is a prerequisite. These professional associations determine the scope. Such a contract has local effect for collective bargaining districts. In some cases, the contract results in an area tariff. A collective agreement is not limited to a company or a professional group. Rather, it encompasses a spatial area, such as a tariff area or a federal state. If the area-wide collective agreement applies to several branches of the economy within one branch, it is called an industry-wide collective agreement.

In order for a collective agreement, regardless of the type, to be applicable to the employee, he acquires membership in a trade union. If employees work as members of a trade union and those without membership in a company, the employer regularly treats them equally. The reason is that the employer does not want to create additional incentives for membership in trade unions. Whether collective agreements are permissible is determined by collective bargaining autonomy. The administration, government and other duty bearers have no influence on collective bargaining. Labor law is the subject of many discussions and regulations in Germany. Accordingly, the final effect only comes about through the cooperation of the contracting parties. The constant jurisprudence provides guidelines for the interpretation of the normative bases.

Further information on the topic:

Fixed-term employment contract: how often can it be extended?

These are the strangest clauses in the employment contract

4 ways to get out of the employment contract early

Written extension for a fixed-term employment contract