Maintal / Berlin (dpa / tmn) – If the work culture in the company is not correct, employee satisfaction also decreases. But employees have the opportunity to communicate and represent their interests with management. There are works councils for this, for example.
Manuela Fritsche, for example, responsible for living space in a retirement home, was inspired by her colleagues. They worked for an ambulance service and had themselves set up a works council. With the support of the Verdi union, Fritsche and other employees of his employer organized an information demonstration in which an election commission was directly elected. This committee, generally made up of three employees, elects the works council.
Fritsche advises to always look to the unions when setting up a works council. “It’s impossible without help,” she said.
Be respectful and determined
“Almost no employer spontaneously shouts ‘Hooray’ when their staff want to set up a works council,” says Michael Bolte, of the Federal Council of the DGB, responsible for fundamental issues and social policy.
He advises being determined but respectful to management. “By law, the employer must be neutral and not prevent the election,” Bolte says. As soon as a works council is set up, the attitude of the employer usually changes quickly.
Five employees are required
Works councils can be created in companies with at least five employees. Triggers are often specific events such as layoffs, hard times, or a grievance that spans a long time. Kerstin Jerchel, head of co-determination at Verdi’s federal administration, cites many precarious working relationships within a company as an example.
“There are few sectors where there are enough works councils,” Bolte said. While in companies with more than 1,000 employees, almost 100 percent have a works council, it seems poor for small ones. The trade union federation is particularly concerned about the middle range with 100 to 500 employees.
In the service sector – and generally in industries where many women work – the density of works councils is low. Works councils are also rarely created in companies with a young and fluctuating workforce.
Co-determination rights in many areas
Even with start-ups, there is often a lack of participation options. The problem here is that they often get bigger very quickly, Jerchel explains. At the beginning there are flat hierarchies, everything can be discussed directly with the boss. “It works fine until it starts to crack at some point.”
Works councils can have their say on many points. You have an influence on working hours, wages and training programs. They are also essential when negotiating short-time working arrangements – such as during the Corona crisis.
Finally, works councils provide support in disputes with the employer. “We have encouraged employees to say ‘no’ when they are overworked,” says Manuela Fritsche. Colleagues who were initially skeptical also praised the work of the works council.