Right to works council meetings by video conference in the pandemic

The Labour Court of Cologne has ruled that works council members are regularly entitled to participate in works council meetings by video conference in their private homes until 30 June 2021 if the requirements of the SARS-CoV-2 Occupational Health and Safety Ordinance (Corona-ArbSchV) of 21 January 2021 for works council meetings cannot be met in the company. It would be an inadmissible hindrance to the work of the works council if an employer issued warnings to works council members under these circumstances or reduced their salaries because of their participation.

The works council of the Cologne branch of a textile company operating throughout Germany had taken legal action against its employer because the latter requested the works council to hold works council meetings at the branch in November 2020. When the works council nevertheless held meetings by video conference, the members were therefore warned and not paid for the time spent on this. The works council challenged this with an application for an injunction.

The Labour Court considered this conduct of the employer to be an obstruction of the works council members in the exercise of their mandate, which is inadmissible under section 78 of the Works Constitution Act (BetrVG). The employer's conduct was a prohibited hindrance to the activities of the works council members because they are entitled to participate in works council meetings by means of videoconferencing until 30 June 2021 according to a special regulation on the occasion of the COVID 19 pandemic (section 129 subsection 1 BetrVG). This applies in particular if - as in the specific case - a sufficiently large room for holding a works council meeting in the presence of all members in compliance with the requirements of section 2 subsection 5 sentence 2 Corona-ArbSchV is not available in the enterprise. The salary reductions for the times of meeting participation were therefore just as unlawful as the issuing of warnings for this reason.

An appeal against this order has been lodged with the Cologne Regional Labour Court.

Decision of 24.03.2021, 18 BVGa 11/21

Source: Press release of the Cologne Labour Court of 03.05.2021