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Collective bargaining

Collective bargaining is at the heart of BDA’s work. As a central federation, it does not conclude collective agreements itself, but coordinates the pay policy of its member federations in sectors and regions. In Germany, remuneration and working times are negotiated autonomously by the social partners, in other words without state influence. An essential condition for autonomous collective bargaining is the freedom of association enshrined in the basic law, i.e. “the right to establish associations to maintain and promote work and economic conditions” (article 9.3). An element of freedom of association is that membership of these associations is voluntary.

The social partners in Germany largely decide the level and trajectory of labour costs, accounting for more than 70% of national income. Despite what many people assert, pay agreements are applicable in full or in large part to a very substantial proportion of work relationships – around 80%. Altogether, around 70,000 collective agreements are in place. Around 6,000 agreements are newly concluded each year. The sectoral collective agreement provides a reliable framework for work relationships. It relieves industrial relations, in particular the system of co-determination within companies, from conflicts and saves companies a considerable amount of individual effort in the shaping of working conditions.

Against state intervention

BDA works against state intervention in the autonomy of social partners, in particular in the form of minimum wages decreed by statute. Determination of minimum working conditions must continue to be left in first instance to the social partners in the framework of autonomous social dialogue as protected by the constitution.

BDA argues that a modernised sectoral collective agreement should continue to perform its regulatory function in the shaping of working conditions in companies into the future, but that it should be further developed through targeted reforms to the benefit of margins for manoeuvre in individual businesses. At its regulatory level, the collective agreement should be further rolled back and greater space for additional and complementary rules at company level should be created.

The sectoral collective agreement must be an agreement on genuine economic minimum conditions for companies and constitute a service offer for businesses. It should perform its peace-keeping function, and strengthen and extend necessary room for flexibility.

The condition for BDA’s work on collective agreements is observation and analysis of the macroeconomic situation as well as negotiated developments in the individual sectors. BDA keeps a pay data bank to support member federations in their collective negotiations in which it stores and evaluates essential conditions of agreements. In BDA’s committees, primarily in the “Pay and Collective Bargaining Committee”, representatives of member federations discuss the scope for distribution and pay elements as well as further developments in the collective bargaining landscape.