WSI Mitteilungen 3/2023

: Issue 03/2023

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2023, pp. 159-167

Martin Behrens, Thorsten Schulten

The Relationship between the State and Collective Bargaining Autonomy. Approaches to Stabilising the Collective Bargaining System


Collective bargaining decline constitutes a major challenge for the German system of labour relations as well as for society in general. The article analyses and discusses a variety of concepts which have been presented in an attempt to stabilise multi-employer collective bargaining. A first group of strategies aims at strengthening the membership of parties to a collective agreement. Many of these concepts focus on changes in federal laws for improving incentives to join or remain a member of the union or employers’ association respectively. A second group of measures focuses on mandatory provisions such as public procurement laws or the extension of collective agreements and more directly enforces compliance to collectively agreed standards. The article concludes that there is no fundamental contradiction between intervention by the state and collective bargaining autonomy as – by law – the state is obliged to provide for a stable collective bargaining system. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2023, pp. 168-176

Florian Rödl

The Collective Bargaining Agreement: An Expression of Private or Political Autonomy?


The basic understanding of collective bargaining autonomy is highly contested in conceptual and normative terms. Today’s prevailing understanding of collective bargaining autonomy as collectively exercised private autonomy limits its scope conceptually, operates restrictively in adjudication of the law of collective agreements and works against important legislative projects to support the collective agreement system. The author argues that this prevailing understanding must be countered in jurisprudence, before the labour courts and in legal policy with the contention that collective bargaining autonomy is a form of political autonomy. Collective bargaining autonomy empowers free coalitions as parties to collective agreements to set legal norms independently of state policy. The exercise of this autonomous power is necessary to shape industrial relations fairly. This is why safeguarding the functioning of collective bargaining autonomy is an eminent state task that has been neglected by state policy for too long. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2023, pp. 177-184

Thomas Haipeter

Between Acceptance and Critical Perceptions of Collective Bargaining. Employers’ Associations and their Perspectives of the German Collective Bargaining System


The continuous decline in collective bargaining coverage over almost three decades makes it difficult to reach any other conclusion: The German collective bargaining system is in crisis. Fewer and fewer companies and employees are still bound by the standards of collective agreements. This development is usually explained by structural factors such as the structure of company size or the value chains of an industry. However, the picture that this paints is not complete. Stronger consideration must be given to the actions of employers’ associations as a result of their views of the collective bargaining system and the collective bargaining strategies that are derived from it. These views and strategies not only frame the collective action of the associations, but also influence the development of collective bargaining coverage because they create and legitimise options for the action of companies. The author examines this connection on the basis of an internet search of current federation websites. It is shown that the differences in the development of collective agreements between and within sectors have a lot to do with the strategies of the employers’ associations. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2023, pp. 185-193

Kate Andrias, Virginia L. Doellgast

Strengthening Collective Bargaining in the USA. Challenges and Prospects for Reform


Against the backdrop of prolonged trade union decline in the United States of America, with only about 10 per cent of all workers now covered by collective agreements, a number of new union and political initiatives have emerged in the past decade to renew US labour relations. These include innovative campaigns for organising workers as well as legal initiatives to strengthen workers’ rights, especially at the state and local levels. More fundamental reforms at national level are needed, however, to address weaknesses in US labour law that give employers significant latitude to oppose unionisation, exclude many workers from coverage, and channel bargaining to the individual workplace level. In the current political climate, these reforms are unlikely. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2023, pp. 194-201

Florian Blank

Social Welfare through Collective Agreements – between Autonomy and Social Purpose


The article deals with collective agreements on welfare provision for employees. It provides an overview of the topic and presents two short examples dealing with short-time work and occupational pensions. Both policy fields were recently subject to new legislation but also witnessed new or amended collective agreements. These serve to illustrate the division of labour between state legislation and the efforts of trade unions and employers’ associations. The author argues that the German system of welfare provision through collective agreements faces problems, as legislation enables and fosters activities of social partners, but does not enforce such activities. Given that the return of activities for employers’ associations and trade unions is minimal or unclear, the system of welfare provision through collective agreements is signified by low coverage and high selectivity. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2023, pp. 202-210

Karin Schulze Buschoff

Dealing with Regulatory Gaps: Solo Self-employment and Collective Bargaining Autonomy


Those who are solo self-employed often find themselves in a precarious situation. On average, they earn less than dependent employees and, due to their structural inferiority, are often unable to negotiate good working conditions individually. Their disadvantage is even more amplified by gaps in labour and social law and where legislative efforts are required to close these gaps. This includes establishing minimum wage regulations and strengthening the legal basis for collective bargaining for the self-employed. Both the legislature and the social partners need to address these problems. A challenge for the social partners is to use the legal opportunities for collective bargaining. The green light for this comes from the European Union. The EU guideline on collective agreements for solo self-employed persons provides legal certainty by clarifying when collective agreements for the self-employed are credible in terms of competition law. This can be seen as a milestone towards strengthening the social rights of the self-employed at EU level, which it is to be hoped will be followed by initiatives at national level. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2023, pp. 211-220

Thorsten Schulten, Martin Behrens

New Institutions Needed. Labour Chambers as an Answer to the Growing Representation Gap in German Industrial Relations?


The ongoing decline of collective bargaining coverage, the spread of works councils and union density have left an increasing representation gap in the German industrial relations system. Against this background, the article raises the question of whether chambers of labour, as they exist as public-law institutions with compulsory membership in Austria and Luxembourg as well as in the German federal states of Bremen and Saarland, can contribute to closing this representation gap. Such a perspective is supported by the extensive advisory services offered by these chambers as well as the considerable additional resources for political representation of interests, which could allow the trade unions to focus more strongly on their core business. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2023, pp. 221-227

Michaela Evans

“Tariff Compliance” Regulations in Geriatric Care. New Governance between Collective Bargaining and the Welfare State


Care professions are among the professions with the greatest skills gaps. In the past, acute shortages of skilled workers, persistent wage disparities and personnel-related supply shortages in geriatric care have significantly increased the pressure on politicians and the social service sector itself to improve wages and working conditions in the long term. With the introduction of “tariff compliance” regulations in the care sector, a long history of collective bargaining efforts reached its preliminary climax. The term “tariff compliance” only applies to a limited extent because the new legal regulations also include other options for care enterprises that are not bound by collective bargaining agreements in order to obtain approval for long-term care. The implementation of the new legal regulations takes place in a governance arrangement in which standard-setting processes in the reciprocal reference to care-related collective bargaining and social policy will in future also be shaped by actors outside the system of industrial relations. The article takes stock of the change process so far, indicates its problems and inquires into further perspectives. more … (in German)