Works Council; Works councils or shop steward committees can be elected in companies employing at least five people entitled to vote. Agricultural and forestry enterprises, public authorities, offices and other departments of administrative bodies, postal and railway services, schools of the public school system and private households are excepted. Separate works councils are usually elected for blue-collar workers and salaried employees, but under certain conditions they can also be elected together. The number of committee members is proportional to the number of people employed. All employees aged 18 and over are entitled to vote, without reference to their nationality (except homeworkers). Committee members are elected for a four-year period.
The committee represents the economic, social, cultural and health-related interests of the workforce. The purpose is to create a balance of interests for the benefit of the workforce and the company as a whole. Amongst other things, the shop committee monitors compliance with the legal norms relating to the workforce in the company and inspects the relevant files; the committee participates in company-run welfare institutions and concludes Plant Agreements. The committee has to be informed in advance of all measures concerning the workforce. Dismissals are null and void if the committee has not been informed. It has also to be consulted upon matters relating to company structures (e.g. social compensation plans), it is represented on the supervisory board of limited companies and in companies employing more than 200 people it has the right to protest against management decisions.
Council members are bound to secrecy; they have to be granted the necessary time to attend to their functions and time for attending training programmes related to their function as council member. During their term of office, they cannot be given notice or dismissed unless they have committed a serious offence.
Literature#W. Schwarz and G. Loeschnigg, Arbeitsrecht 71999.