Rights of union reps

Union reps and their layoff protection

Union reps enjoy special protection in the workplace according to law, and cannot be laid off for fulfilling their duties as reps. Generally, the rep is “last out the door” during staffing reductions.

The Efling-SA collective agreement, article 12.3.3, confirms the restricted permission for layoffs of union reps. It also refers to the law no. 80/1938 on unions and industrial action.

In article 11, the protection of union reps is specified clearly:

“Employers and their representatives are not permitted to lay off union reps, for having done their work as union reps, or victimizing them for having been entrusted with a representative position by their union. Should an employer need to lay off staff, the union representative shall generally have priority in maintaining his position.”

In article 4 of the same law, it also says that employers may not try to influence the political opinions of their workers or interfere in their union or political association or strikes by laying them off.

In article 12.3.3 of the Efling-SA collective agreement, it further says that when a worker enjoyes layoff protection according to law, the employer must provide written argumentation for the termination. Article 12.3.4 says that those who break the union rep chapter of the collective agreement may have to pay damages according to tort law.

To lay off a union rep, reasons have to be severe, and the employer must give the rep a warning, and explain that termination may ensue if the rep doesn’t change his ways. Several rulings of the Labour court establish this.

See Labour court ruling 1/1965 and 1/1966. In both cases, a rep was laid off, mainly due to late arrival at work. Both were ruled illegal, as no warning had been given. See also ruling 4/1966, 4/1974 and 5/1989, where layoffs were ruled illegal because no warning was given.