Collective bargaining autonomy under labor law is the constitutionally secured right of collective bargaining partners (employers' associations and unions) to regulate working and economic conditions through contracts or collective agreements without being exposed to state influence.
The collective bargaining autonomy not only includes the right to negotiate contracts, but also the use of industrial action (strike and lockout) chosen in connection with collective bargaining.
As an important expression of the freedom of association protected by Art. 9 III of the Basic Law, collective bargaining enjoys constitutional status. The Collective Bargaining Act (TVG) in particular is of central importance for the practical design of collective bargaining autonomy.
Limits to collective bargaining autonomy
Collective bargaining autonomy is limited, among other things, by the legally controversial prohibition on agreeing differentiation clauses (e.g. better collective bargaining for union members compared to non-organized employees).
In addition, according to the prevailing opinion, collective agreements must not violate the common good (e.g. by grossly disregarding the balance of the economy as a whole) and also not contain regulations that affect the privacy of employees (e.g. leisure activities, use of salaries).
The collective bargaining autonomy also does not include the right to change claims to wages or to intervene in the company constitution (e.g. conversion of an AG into a foundation).
In addition, collective bargaining autonomy reaches its limits where statutory employee rights such as minimum vacation or wage entitlement would be violated by agreements in a collective agreement.