Scheinleiharbeit

Fake temp work.

Apparently Germany has a supreme court for labor law, the Bundesarbeitsgericht, located in Erfurt.

On 10 Dec 2013 the labor court judges announced a detailed verdict in a temp work dispute that basically said, ARD tagesschau.de said, it’s time for the legislature to pass certain laws. “It’s the legislature’s turn.”

At issue was clarifying a 1972 temp work law, the Arbeitnehmerüberlassungsgesetz, AÜG, whose current version apparently does not adequately define punishments for violations of itself and uses nonspecific language: “Die Überlassung von Arbeitnehmern an Entleiher erfolgt vorübergehend.” [The seconding of employees to hirers is done temporarily.] When the AÜG was passed in 1972, it limited temp work to max. 3 months; that limit was raised several times until it reached 24 months in 2002, was eliminated entirely in 2003, and was re-introduced as the word “temporary,” vorübergehend, in 2011. The current draft agreement negotiated for a possible post-election C.D.U./C.S.U. + S.P.D. grosse Koalition government contains a promise to reset the maximum temping limit to ≤18 months, ZDF heute journal’s Simone Friedrich said in her brief history of the relevant law.

Three years was how long the case’s plaintiff, an I.T. specialist, had been temping at a hospital. His workplace was operated by a company that ran multiple hospitals and had created its own temp agency to staff them with several hundred workers receiving significantly less than union-negotiated wages, according to ZDF heute journal. Yet the labor court had to find that punishments not codified in the current laws were not codified in the current laws.

“As disappointing as this verdict may be for the plaintiff, the judges also made clear that temp work can only be legally limited by the lawgiver [legislatures]. And the legislatures are who must craft the regulations stating what sanctions will apply to hirers that don’t follow these rules.” –ARD tagesschau.de correspondent Matthias Koch

The Deutsche Gewerkschaftsbund association of unions said the corrective legislation should not only limit the maximum time for temp work but also mandate that temp workers receive the same wages as regular workers.

Reporting on the verdict made charming use of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s rather impressive statement when she addressed a meeting of the German employers’ association on 19 Nov 2013:

“Unfortunately, in the German economy, we have seen it happen again and again that from every flexibilization an abuse arises. […] And the more often that sort of thing happens, the greater the danger that everything will be reregulated again.”

ZDF correspondent Simone Friedrich said Germany had 20,000 temp workers in 1982 and 822,000 in 2012.

(SHINE LIE ah bite.)

Betriebsrat

Workers’ council, a committee elected by employees that is involved in management of German workplaces.

Spiegel.de reported on 11 Nov 2013 that Microsoft was not renewing the leases for its offices in Hamburg, Böblingen and Bad Homburg, where ~500 of the company’s ~2700 Germany-based employees work. These workers were to be dispersed into telecommuting as “Homeoffice-Mitarbeiter.”

Labor advocates accused the company was doing this to outflank efforts by the Betriebsrat workers’ councils at those locations to negotiate resolutions to Microsoft’s overtime situation, with workers regularly putting in 50 to 60 hours per week in a country that usually has a work week <40 hours, said overtime “being neither off-celebrated [with time] nor offset [with money].” Celebration is a synonym for time spent not working, in German.

Labor advocates also alleged that Microsoft’s plans to rent conference rooms for future meetings with clients was an attempt to ensure there were never more than four of its employees gathered together in one place at a time because, they said, German law requires Betriebsrat representation for workplaces with five employees or more.

(Beh TREEBZ rah t.)

Werkverträge

“Work contracts” or “service contracts” that pay workers per item or opus rather than per hour, month or annum. Piecework contracts paying per product or service.

In the Bundesrat, Lower Saxony (S.P.D. + Green party), North Rhine-Westphalia (S.P.D. + Green party) and the Saarland (C.D.U. + S.P.D.) announced an initiative to investigate what they said is growing misuse of this type of labor contract, particularly in the meat packing industry. Such workers, estimated at >10,000 in Germany reported tagesschau.de, are said to be being lured in from less prosperous Eastern European countries, treated badly and paid “hunger wages” by German standards. Apparently current German regulations do not provide workers with this type of contract the same protections given to temp workers [Leiharbeiter], such as a guaranteed minimum wage for each hour worked.

Investigators’ complaints about poor treatment include “piecework at hunger wages [instead of the usual higher wages to compensate for piecework’s lack of benefits], inadequate health protection and opaque Werkvertrag contracts given to low-wage foreign workers.”

The governor of Lower Saxony, Stephan Weil (S.P.D.), deemed these contracts “an ulcer on the entire German labor market” and called for them to be banned, saying Werkvertrag workers also need representation in a company’s Betriebsrat, a workers’ committee involved in management. The proposed Bundesrat initiative would mandate that Betriebsrat worker committees must give their approval before Werkvertrag labor can be used in any German company.

Lower Saxony’s government said their state has already passed new rules about shared apartments the companies with questionable Werkvertrag conditions are also renting out to foreign pieceworkers. They now must provide at least 8 square meters per employee-tenant.

(VEH ACK feh TRAY geh.)

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