Thursday, November 22, 2012

Germany's Federal Labor Court Rules On Church Employees' Right To Strike

Reuters yesterday reported that Germany's Federal Labor Court has handed down a decision which has both sides claiming victory on the question of whether employees of church organizations have the right to strike. Together, Catholic and Protestant schools, hospitals and social service agencies employ 1.3 million people in Germany.  Historically, the church groups, relying on the provision in the German constitution that guarantees them the right to manage their own internal affairs, have barred strikes in favor of mediation in labor disputes.  However, Germany's service sector union says that church organizations have undercut wages in recent years by outsourcing many jobs. The Labor Court concluded that: "Limiting the churches' right to self-determination by a strike is not illegal in all cases."  However, it also said that strikes "severely limit social ministries and damage the credibility of the church."  It said churches should allow unions more rights in the mediation process if they want to avoid strikes. According to Deutsche Welle, both sides say they will appeal the Federal Labor Court's ruling to the Federal Constitutional Court. Meanwhile a case from Romania under consideration by the European Court of Human Rights may resolve the issue of whether churches can prohibit strikes or unionization.