This case concerned the Uniformity of Collective Agreements Act (Tarifeinheitsgesetz), which regulates conflicts that arise if there are several collective agreements in one “business unit” (Betrieb) of a company2. The applicants – three German trade unions and six members of one of them – submitted that the relevant provisions of the Act in question had violated their right to form and join trade unions, including the right to collective bargaining. They argued in particular that the legislation had resulted in their not being able to conclude collective agreements in companies in which a different trade union had more members, and in employers no longer wishing to negotiate with them.

The Court held that there had been no violation of Article 11 of the Convention, finding that there had been no disproportionate restriction on the applicants’ rights in the present case. The Court reiterated in particular that the right to collective bargaining as guaranteed under Article 11 of the Convention did not include a “right” to a collective agreement. What was essential was that trade unions could make representations to and be heard by employers. In this case, the Court found that the restrictions brought on by the legislation had concerned smaller trade unions, which nonetheless retained other rights, including the right to collective bargaining and to strike. Moreover, the legislation was intended to ensure the proper functioning of the collective bargaining system in the interests of both employees and employers.