Labour Research March 2017

European news

Representation under threat 

The European Court of Justice is currently considering a case against the German system of employee representation on company boards which could potentially have major implications. 

The case is being brought by a small shareholder in the German travel company TUI, who argues that the existing system breaches European law. The claim is that this is because only those working in Germany can stand and vote in the elections which choose the employee representatives who sit in the board — a third of the seats in companies with between 500 and 2,000 employees, and half in larger companies. 

The unions dismiss this argument as absurd. They point out that non-German citizens have full rights to stand and vote in the elections, provided they are employed in Germany. 

They also argue that most rights linked to employment, like unfair dismissal protection or the right to strike, also depend in working in a particular country. They fear that the real aim in the case is not to make the German system more European, but to destroy it.

However, they are encouraged by a change of view in the European Commission which now backs the German system. 

The case was heard at the end of January and a verdict is expected in the summer.