Union workers complain more

Federal Constitutional Court: Union members may be given preferential treatment in collective agreements

Collective agreements should put union members in a better position than non-unionized workers. This does not violate the Basic Law, decided the Federal Constitutional Court in a decision published in Karlsruhe. The highest German judges dismissed a constitutional complaint from a non-unionized employee who saw himself disadvantaged by a so-called differentiation clause. Such clauses in collective agreements state that certain benefits are available only to union members.

The union had specifically negotiated bridging and severance payments for its members in the social collective agreement. The regulations from the employment contract and the social plan apply to non-members. The complainant wanted the same benefits as union members. He was initially successful before the labor court. But the Munich Regional Labor Court and the Federal Labor Court dismissed his complaint - and rightly so, the constitutional judges decided.

Article 9 paragraph 3 of the Basic Law protects the freedom to stay away from associations. The court stressed that there should be no compulsion to become a member of a trade union. It would actually be against the Constitution. In the present case, however, the judges saw no compulsion as long as the unequal treatment only resulted in a "factual incentive to join a union". The "general preventive" pressure alleged by the complainant had not been proven. The special protection against dismissal for those who were already in the union on a certain date is also not objectionable.

In any case, the union is only authorized to make agreements for its members. Due to the autonomy of the collective bargaining system, it is not obliged to consider all employees equally (Ref .: 1 BvR 1278/16 - decision of November 14, 2018).