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German Constitutional Court backs flashmobs as part of strike action

Germany's Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe has sided with employees of a retail chain who had organized a flashmob in a store. They used it as part of their industrial action over wages and working conditions.

Wikipedia defines flashmobs as groups of "people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time and then quickly disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment."

Clearly not for the sake of entertainment was a flashmob that Germany's public-sector union Verdi organized back in 2007. Amid a wider strike action over wages, it had called on union members to disrupt operations in a retail store by meeting there all at once, filling shopping carts and leaving them there or buying a small item each, causing long lines at the counter.

A Berlin-based trade group had taken the matter to the court, claiming such an action could never be part of a wider strike.

Mixed reactions

Flashmobs: Surprising the public

But the country's Constitutional Court on Wednesday dismissed the group's argument, saying that there was no legislation in place explicitly confining participants in a strike action to conventional walkouts, using police whistles and holding up banners.

The court added, though, that any union calls to organize flashmobs had to be directed at union members only.

In a first reaction to the ruling, Verdi said the Constitutional Court had gratifyingly strengthened the unions' position in picking an element of their choice when it came to strike action.

By contrast, Germany's retail umbrella organization HDE appeared shocked by the ruling, saying it was disappointed and surprised at the same time.

hg/dr (AFP, dpa)

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