Germany: Ban on strikes for civil servants is conform to the German Constitution

In a long-expected landmark ruling on June 12, the German Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) declared the existing general ban on strikes for German civil servants as not being in violation of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz).

According to the Court „the impairment of the freedom to form and join trade unions is justified by sufficiently weighty interests that are protected under constitutional law” and “the ban on strike action for civil servants is an independent and traditional principle of the career civil service system”.

The judgement is being considered as surprisingly explicit, especially as the Court underlined that “a right to strike, even for some groups of civil servants only, would interfere with the core structural principles guaranteed by the Basic Law and would fundamentally reshape the understanding and regulations of the civil service” and that it would “erode the principles of alimentation, lifetime employment and the duty of loyalty as well as the principle that material rights and duties, including remuneration, must be regulated by the legislature”. A right to strike “would require fundamental changes to these principles, which are essential to the functioning of the civil service.”

With a view to the European Convention for Human Rights (ECHR) and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, the German ‘Bundesverfassungsgericht’ made clear that the ban on strike action for civil servants is justified (under Art. 11(2) first sentence or Art. 11(2) second sentence ECHR) based the particularities of the German system of the career civil service.

The German Civil Service Association (dbb), a member of CESI, welcomed the judgement. “It is time that this discussion ends and that the particularity of the German system is recognised. Being a German civil servant does not only entail rights, it also entails obligations for both, the State and the civil servant. Allowing the right to strike would open the door to the erosion the German civil service as such” declared Uli Silberbach, President of the dbb.

The complaints were brought to the German Constitutional Court by teachers having the civil servants status and who had been sanctioned for their participation in strikes.