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The deployment of public officials during the Verdi strike

The Labor Court Bonn (Arbeitsgericht Bonn) decided on 26 May 26 2015 (docket no.: 3 Ga 18/15) that Deutsche Post AG may deploy public officials to replace the striking employees during the current strike for higher wages and shorter working hours .

In the current strike, Verdi pursues a reduction of the regular working hours from 38.5 to 36 hours a week as well as a pay rise of 5.5 %. The sixth negotiation round will start in early June.

In addition to employees, public officials – who are not entitled to participate in the Verdi strike – also work for Deutsche Post AG. Deutsche Post AG deploys the public officials to the striking employees’ workplaces in order to substitute for the striking employees. Because of this, in Verdi’s view, the effectiveness of the strike and it’s right to strike (which is protected by law) are restricted by Deutsche Post AG.

In its decision, the Labor Court Bonn refers to a decision of the German Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) of 1993. According to the Constitutional Court, only the compulsory deployment of public officials, ie deployment by force, is prohibited. By contrast, the deployment is not prohibited if the public officials are working of their own volition.

In the Verdi case, although the public officials are deployed to the striking employees’ workplaces, this deployment does not constitute a prohibited compulsory deployment because the public officials implicitly agreed to it.

In the court hearing, Deutsche Post AG’s attorney submitted affidavits proving the public officials’ willingness to work. Nevertheless, Verdi argued that according to German law, public officials are not entitled to object to their employer’s instructions. Also, according to Verdi’s point of view, most of the public officials do not dare to contradict their employer.

The Bonn Labor Court did not follow this argument. Although the public officials may not object to their supervisor’s assignment to conduct the work, nonetheless, they have the option to follow a formal route by submitting a complaint to the director of Deutsche Post AG officially.

For Verdi, the possibility of filing an appeal against the decision of the Labor Court Bonn remains. Therefore, it has to be seen if Verdi will appeal and if the appellate court, the Higher Labor Court Cologne (Landesarbeitsgericht Köln) will confirm the Labor Court Bonn’s point of view.