German churches and trade union both claim victory in strike case

November 21, 2012

(A sign reading ‘Arbeitsgerichte’ (Labour courts) is pictured in the late evening in Hamburg September 1, 2012. REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen)

Germany’s main churches and a union that represents their employees have both claimed victory after the Federal Labour Court issued a Solomonic decision on whether church employees are allowed to strike.

The Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches greeted the ruling as an endorsement of their system of resolving wage disputes through mediation, while the union said it confirmed church workers had the right to industrial action.

German media reflected the split on Wednesday. “Church can ban strikes,” read the headline in the conservative daily Die Welt. “Church workers can strike,” wrote the liberal Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

The two churches, with a combined total of about 1.3 million staff in schools, hospitals and social services, are effectively the largest employer in Germany after the public sector.

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