Companies have to negotiate with unions

German Trade Union Confederation

At first glance, the answer seems clear: a union is an association made by and for employees. But there are clear criteria that trade unions must meet. We show which criteria apply to trade unions.


The Basic Law is documented in Article 9, paragraph 3 the right for all employees to form associations to protect their interests in the world of work - in all professions. The so-called "freedom of association". In addition, the im Collective Agreement Act § 2 to meet established collective bargaining requirements: It stipulates that only employers and trade unions can be parties to collective bargaining agreements - that is, they are allowed to negotiate and conclude collective bargaining agreements.

Basic requirements for trade unions

In order for an association of employees to really be a trade union - a coalition within the meaning of the Basic Law - the following criteria apply:

  • Voluntary Association: In a union the workers have voluntary and up certain duration united
  • The purpose of the articles of association is to promote and maintain working and economic conditions: The statutes of a union contain as common the task and the goal which Working conditions and economic conditions to preserve and promote.
  • Independence: A union is financially, personally and organisationally independent from third parties - i.e. from the state, parties, churches - and from the counterpart in the company and in collective bargaining - i.e. from the employer. The union must not be financed by the enemy. Also, unions must "Opponent free" be. That means: employers are not allowed to be members of unions. Sometimes the cross-company activity of a union is cited as a sign of independence.

    So it is very clear: Employers, the state, political parties and churches cannot found and finance their own unions. Such a “union” would simply lack the necessary independence.

  • Democratic organization: A union is democratically organized. It is legitimized by the elections and participation of its members. To this end, trade unions hold regular trade union congresses and trade union days.

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Collective bargaining requirements

In addition, there are the collective bargaining requirements for a union: A union must be able to pay tariffs.

The tariff eligibility can primarily be checked against three criteria:

  1. Social mightiness: A union must be able to assert itself. These social mightiness needs it in order to be recognized and taken seriously by the other party as a negotiating partner. Features are one assertive organization with a corresponding Number of members. In principle, the members must be ready to Industrial action be. In addition, the union must have done so in the past Collective agreements concluded Has. Complacency collective agreements or sham collective agreements are not included.
  2. Wage agreement: The “all or nothing” principle applies here. This means that a union must be willing and able to negotiate and reach deals on all working conditions, wages and salaries. Your own bargaining power must not be limited to certain areas, because there is no partial tariff capability.
  3. Assertiveness: A trade union is characterized by the fact that it also has the will to Collective bargaining to lead and collective bargaining demands also enforce with strikes.

Which unions are members of the German Trade Union Confederation DGB?

Eight member unions are united in the DGB. They all meet the basic and collective bargaining requirements. They negotiate independently with employers about improvements in collective bargaining and represent their members in the companies:

  • IG Bauen-Agrar-Umwelt (IG BAU)
  • IG Mining, Chemistry, Energy (IG BCE)
  • Railway and Transport Union (EVG)
  • Education and Science Union (GEW)
  • IG Metall
  • Food-Enjoyment-Restaurants Union (NGG)
  • Police Union (GdP)
  • United service union (ver.di)