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The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The Basic Law provides for the right to organize and bargain collectively and workers exercised these rights. Collective bargaining was widespread due to a well-developed system of autonomous contract negotiations; mediation was used infrequently. Basic wages and working conditions were negotiated at the industry level. However, some firms in the eastern part of the country refused to join employer associations or withdrew from them and then bargained independently with workers. In addition, some firms in the west withdrew at least part of their work force from the jurisdiction of employer associations, complaining of rigidities in the industrywide, multicompany negotiating system; however, they did not refuse to bargain as individual enterprises. The law mandates a system, known as co-determination, whereby workers are able to participate in the management of the enterprises in which they work through "works councils" and worker representation on boards of directors. The rights of the works councils are regulated through the Works Constitution. Members of works councils do not have to be union representatives.
The Basic Law provides for the right to strike, except for civil servants (including teachers) and personnel in sensitive positions, such as members of the armed forces. In the past, the International Labor Organization (ILO) criticized the Government's definition of "essential services" as overly broad. The ILO continued to seek clarifications from the Government on policies and laws governing the labor rights of civil servants. The ILO has repeatedly reminded the Government that this restriction is not in line with Convention 87, and has asked it to change its legislation accordingly. Similarly, teachers in the public service continue to be denied their right to collective bargaining. This has not changed despite ILO criticism of the violation of Convention 98. These groups who are not allowed to strike have legal recourse through the court system to protect their rights.
In June, a strike by the IG Metall labor union for a 35-hour work week in eastern Germany failed in the face of determined resistance by employers, lack of support among workers who feared they would be priced out of their jobs, and objections from western German workers who would have had to cope with the consequences of disruptions in supplies from the east. The Government did not interfere.
There are no export processing zones.
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