Industrial Actions in Germany – Realistic in an International context?
Revista Derecho Social y Empresa nº 4, Diciembre 2015
ISSN: 2341-135X pág. 
especially in the services. In order not to reduce the chances of German enterprises on
the international market, the state is no more willing or able to tax them in a sufficient
way. In some cases, privatization destroys income sources. A state with a poor budget
can pay only poor salaries; the pressure to reduce costs is the highest one in the
services. This leads to a kind of separation between the metalworkers´ union and the
chemistry union on the one side and the service union on the other side. Strikes will
be found especially in the services: Doctors in hospitals, railwaymen, nursery-school
teachers. As services expand even in industry, there is a big conflict between the two
groups of unions who will be entitled to recruit members in this field.
Why can it be of interest for foreign people to know something more about
German industrial relations? If there is a perspective to collaborate with German
unions and even ask them for support, one has to know their structure and their
traditional behaviour. If a common collective action would be at the horizon, is there a
chance to find an agreement about such a plan? Who will be the partner to talk with if
an action is planned on the level of an enterprise?
In the following paragraphs, readers may find some “basics” on German labour
law and the corresponding reality. The second big part deals with industrial conflict
and its narrow legal framework which has become in a way less restrictive during the
last ten years. At the end, some short suggestions will be made.
2. GERMAN INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS – AN OVERVIEW
2.1. Dualistic System and number of Strikes
In Germany, the number of strikes is quite low. According to statistical figures
published by the scientific institute of the German Trade Union Congress,2 about one
million of employees participated in strikes in 2013. In relation to 36 million
employees, this is a quite modest number: About 3% of all workers went to strike. In
the typical case, a strike took some hours, because only 550.000 working days were
lost.3 These facts need some explanation.
2 WSI – Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut.
3 Details see Dribbusch, Böckler impuls 5/2014 p. 3.