SAP staff go to court over workers' council

Union employees turn to courts to establish workers' council that majority of SAP staff voted against

Three union employees at SAP have turned to a German court to help win support for the establishment of a workers' council after a majority of employees voted against the idea at a meeting last week.

A petition to install an election committee for selecting candidates for a workers' council has been lodged with the Mannheim Labor Court, the labor union IG Metall confirmed on Sunday.

SAP has said it will accept a workers' council if a majority of its employees want one. Workers' councils, which serve to represent the interests of employees vis-a-vis employers, are permitted under German law.

But some critics are against the plan. Dietmar Hopp, an SAP cofounder and major shareholder in the company, expressed strong reservations about the influence of IG Metall ahead of last week's vote.

Hopp, who is no longer an executive with SAP, warned that the workers' council could open the door to unwelcome influence from IG Metall, the German electronics and metal workers' union, which holds a strong position on matters such as working hours.

One of the consequences of union influence could be the relocation of the German headquarters in Walldorf, Hopp said.

More than 10,000 employees work at SAP's headquarters and a nearby office complex in St. Leon-Rot. Of the 5,632 employees who attended the March 2 meeting, only 509 voted in favor of a workers' council.

Earlier attempts to establish such a representative body have failed, lacking majority support from SAP employees.

The German software maker is one of the largest companies in the country to be without a workers council.

Currently, SAP employees are represented by several employee representatives who are elected to the company's supervisory board, in line with German legal requirements. They represent SAP's worldwide workforce of nearly 36,000 people.