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Workers, Collectivism and the Law

Grappling with Democracy

Laura Carlson

Workers, Collectivism and the Law offers a captivating historical account of worker democracy, from its beginnings in European guild systems to present-day labor unions, across the national legal systems of Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. Analysing these legal systems in light of a Habermasian concept of participatory democracy, Laura Carlson identifies ways to strengthen individual employee voice in claims against employers.
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Chapter 9: Employee voice in Germany: dual channels

Laura Carlson


The German labor law model is built on both strong social partners and strong individual employee rights, particularly with respect to voice. The dual channel system with employee representation through both works councils and labor unions provides several avenues for employees to raise issues directly to the employer with support, to the works council, or to the trade union. The works councils are given enhanced statutory duties with respect to certain protected groups based on sex, age, disability, and race. Two important points can be seen in the procedural rules concerning labor disputes: quick and efficient solutions that are transparent and focused on the needs of the public, and employees’ access to justice in courts, with a reallocation of trial costs and fees to minimize the economic risks to employees, as well as checks that the costs and fees are not excessive.

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