The Federal Labor Court has relaxed the church's ban on strikes, but at the same time strengthened the church's own path in labor law. The Bonn legal scholar and church law expert Gregor Thusing assessed the ruling as an "arbitrator's decision that wants to do justice to both sides". Thusing heads the Institute for Labor Law and Social Security Law at the University of Bonn.
CBA: Professor Thusing, how do you assess the ruling of the Federal Labor Court??
Thusing: It seems to me like an arbitrator's ruling that wants to do justice to both sides. He gives the churches the right to go their own way in labor law. And the ruling grants unions access to the churches' labor-law commissions, as well as a right to strike by church employees in certain cases.
CBA: Would you advise churches not to accept the ruling and appeal to the Federal Prosecution Court?
Thusing: How far the balance of interests has succeeded and whether the verdict is sustainable for the churches, will only be revealed by the exact reasons for the verdict. And this will probably not be available for several months.
CBA: How then could a participation of the trade unions in the church tariff determination look like?
Thusing: On the Protestant side, there are already the most diverse models of tariff setting in the regional churches. And in some cases the trade unions are already on board — for example in Westphalia-Lippe. On the Catholic side, the system is much more uniform. There is a labor commission, for example for the five NRW bishoprics, in which employers and employees are elected on a parity basis. In this case, it must be guaranteed that the unions are also represented.
CBA: And what about the right to strike??
Thusing: Provided the unions are involved and the commissions' collective bargaining decisions become binding for all church and charitable institutions, a strike is ruled out, according to the court ruling.
CBA: What do you mean by commitment?
Thusing: All church carriers must adhere to these collective agreements. There must be no deviating agreements in employment contracts to the detriment of the employee. Catholic bishops have already asked their legal authorities to declare by the end of 2013 whether they want to fall under the Third Way. Otherwise they lose their ecclesiastical recognition. Apart from jurisdiction, it's also a question of credibility: Churches can't hold up lofty principles of a community of service and in practice behave quite differently.
The interview was conducted by Christoph Arens (KNA)