After months of standstill, Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) wants the planned law for greater collective bargaining compliance in Germany to come into force soon. “I am determined that we can get this done together, especially since this is clearly agreed in the coalition agreement,” said Heil on Monday evening in Berlin at a ceremony organized by the trade union-affiliated Hans Böckler Foundation to mark 75 years of the Collective Bargaining Act.

Heil placed the planned law within the framework of a “reform of procurement law as a whole” that the traffic light government wanted to initiate. This regulates the conditions under which public contracts are awarded. With the Tariff Compliance Act, public tasks of the federal government should be tied to the compliance of companies with collective bargaining agreements. In addition, a right should be created for trade unions to have access to employees and companies digitally, said Heil. In the future, companies should no longer be able to get employees out of collective bargaining structures so easily through restructuring.

“It can only be a government impulse”

Originally, regulations for more collective bargaining were supposed to be decided last year, according to Heil’s earlier announcements. Employers in particular opposed the plans. Among other things, what was controversial was the level at which collective agreements should be required for public contracts.

Heil admitted: “This can only be a government impulse for more collective bargaining.” The planned law will not result in “we having 80 percent collective bargaining coverage.” He demanded: “First of all, it is the task of employers and unions themselves to ensure greater collective bargaining.”

Employers and unions disagree

According to the WSI research institute of the Hans Böckler Foundation, only 51 percent of employees had a collective agreement in 2022 – in 2000 it was 68 percent. At the same time, only 24 percent of companies were recently bound by collective agreements – compared to 44 percent in 2000.

Employer President Rainer Dulger reiterated that he was “not a big fan of the Collective Bargaining Act”. Dulger: “Collective agreements must be voluntary and must remain voluntary.” DGB boss Yasmin Fahimi strongly advocated that the state no longer award orders to companies without collective agreements.