European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Strikes in Germany - background summary

Strikes and lockouts are only lawful in Germany in the context of collective bargaining and can only be called by trade unions. This means that there is no individual right to strike in Germany.

  • Strikes cannot be called once a collective agreement is in place, as collective agreements contain peace clauses that prohibit industrial action while they are in force and for a period afterwards. Strikes may be called over issues that are not contained in a collective agreement, or if collectively-agreed provisions have expired. Warning strikes, or token strikes can be carried out by trade unions in the context of negotiations for a new collective agreement. These strikes are used as a preliminary demonstration of trade union strength. There is no legal obligation for unions to hold a ballot prior to a strike. Whether or not and under which procedures unions hold a strike ballot is entirely up to their  discretion.
  • According to the Federal Employment Agency (BA), there were 4 days lost to strike action per 1,000 employees in 2013, up from 2.3 in 2012, although the WSI annual estimate on industrial action puts this higher, at 10.6 days in 2014, down from 14.6 in 2013 and 16.8 in 2012, based on strike data from trade unions and analysis of media reports.
  • The latest figures from the Institute of Economic and Social Research (WSI) within the Hans-Böckler-Foundation, which relate to 2015, show an unusually active year for strike action that year, with the number of days lost to strikes overall increasing to 2 million, compared with 392,000 in 2014. This is attributed to two large-scale disputes: a dispute over structural pay increases for employees in nursery schools, daycare centres for children, the youth welfare service and social agencies, which accounted for 1.5 million days lost, and in the postal sector over the outsourcing of parcel deliveries.
  • Other notable strikes in 2015 included a widespread warning strike in the networking sector, conflict at the Germany rail company Deutsche Bahn and strikes at the air carrier Lufthansa against a cost-savings programme.
  • Overall, however, Germany has a reputation for industrial peace, compared with many other EU Member States.