Strike for wind power company enercon: works council may continue to work

He stood up for the interests of temporary workers. For this reason, an Enercon employee representative was to be fired. A court has now prohibited this.

Still an Enercon employee: works council member Nils-Holger Bottger. Picture: dpa

A defeat in the labor court has taken the leading German wind turbine manufacturer Enercon. On Wednesday, the Magdeburg Labor Court announced its decision that the works council of an Enercon subsidiary may not be dismissed. The decision is not yet final, and the company can appeal.

The case has attracted widespread attention because the IG Metall trade union organized a nationwide support campaign for the works council. 19,000 signatures have been collected so far. Local politicians, members of parliament, trade unionists and citizens thus protested against "the aggressive pressure on union activists". Employee representatives have long complained about the autocratic management style at the company.

Enercon, headquartered in Aurich, employs about 13,000 people worldwide. The lawsuit is about Nils-Holger Bottger, the chairman of the works council of Enercon subsidiary Windenergieanlagen Service Ost in Magdeburg. Among other things, he stood up for the interests of temporary workers. For example, he objected to unpaid working time for training on the weekend. The company tried to dismiss him.

Bottger had "massively exceeded his competences," said Enercon spokesman Felix Rehwald. The company said the works council had made insulting comments about the temporary employment agency. "As a consequence, the contractual partner terminated the cooperation, so that the service company suffered a not inconsiderable economic loss," Rehwald said.

Right to freedom of expression

However, the labor judges rejected the company’s two motions to dismiss and remove Bottger from office. They said the alleged insults were covered by the right to freedom of expression.

According to IG Metall, unionized employees and works councils at Enercon have been obstructed and harassed on several occasions. For example, a company management had denied IG Metall representatives access to the company before works council elections. Another method used by management was to send warnings to works council members for allegedly declaring leisure activities as working time. The taz reported on harassment of employee representatives at the wind turbine manufacturer several times back in 2006.

However, Enercon’s management gets along well with some works councils that are not confrontational. "We want to emphasize that we are clearly committed to fair and equal treatment of all employees," says Enercon spokesman Rehwald.

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