Deutsche Welle (DW) has an article titled Representing workers, the German way which explains the “co-determination” (Mitbestimmung) system and works councils (Betriebsräte).
« The Co-determination Act, enacted in 1976, still allows for workers in large public and private companies — those with more than 2,000 employees — to elect up to half of the members of that company’s supervisory board of directors, giving workers a powerful say in how those companies are run, from overall strategy to everyday minutiae. »
« Then there are the works councils — the groups that will come together this week in Bonn and whose legal basis is established by the German Works Council Constitution Act. Works councils are neither unions nor executive boards; they are representative groups drawn from a company’s employee base and designed to further co-determination rights, particularly concerning matters of employee welfare. »
« While law does not dictate that a works council must be established by a company, workers in any private company with more than five employees are entitled to have one. The size of the council depends on the size of the company (e.g. 51-100 employees, a seven-person council). »
« Works councils have extensive and substantial rights, from overseeing the implementation of employment laws and rights, to issues around appointments, contract terminations and even the layout of a given workplace. »