What are the benefits of forming a Works Council?

In Germany, the workers of all industries have the right to form a Works Council (Betriebsrat). These organizations enjoy widespread popularity throught the country and have been shown to have enormous benefits for workers; and yet, many employers and companies continue to mislead their employees about their rights and what Works Councils offer. What makes this such a popular form of workplace organization?

Job protection

Works Councils have the ability to protect individuals who are in a dispute with the company. Every worker benefits from the protection from capricious, unjustified, or otherwise inappropriate termination. In cases of discrimination or harassment employees are also entitled to receive legal assistance from the Works Council.

Better pay

Generally, collective bargaining is reserved for trade unions when it comes to issues of salary increases and working hours. Therefore, Works Councils are most powerful when combined with trade unions. At the company level, Works Councils can fight wage discrimination, and in case of Kurzarbeit (furlough) negotiate a uniform and fair agreement for all employees.

Better productivity

When workers can focus on their work and their own skillset, their happiness and productivity increase. Works COuncils can also negotiate for better training, continuing education, and other forms of personal development through the company.

A common misconception is that Works Councils have some form of union dues. They do not. Instead, the company is required to pay the salary of Works Councilors for their work during their regular working hours, they’re not paid through dues.

HR protects a company, Works Councils protect employees

When you have an issue with your supervisor, manager, or other member of the company, you need someone looking out for your interests. Works Council members are able to offer legal advice and provide support. and are given the time and resources to advocate for your needs independently of your employers. In cases of discrimination or harassment HR departments and other company-sponsored schemes often fail to support the people who need it most because their interests are in protecting the people who are being reported!