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Staff councils and their power resources – Workplace representation in German municipalities

Andrea Müller (Research Institute for Work, Technology and Culture, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany)
Werner Schmidt (Research Institute for Work, Technology and Culture, Tübingen, Germany)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 12 August 2022

Issue publication date: 2 January 2023




The paper examines the work and interactions of staff councils in German municipalities and the power resources the staff councils have at disposal. The paper also discusses the relationship between staff councils and trade unions and suggests a modification of the prominent concept of the “dual system of interest representation” to a “trimorphic system of interest representation” for the public sector.


The paper draws on case studies of staff councils in municipalities and administrative districts, relying on semi-structured interviews, group discussions and document analysis.


Staff councils operate in an extensively regulated field. The major task of staff councils is to monitor that employers follow collective agreements and the law. Staff councils' existence and co-determination rights of staff councils are provided by law; however, staff councils not only use institutional, but also organisational and – occasionally – political power resources, whereas structural and societal power resources are rarely actively used. The relationship between staff councils and trade unions often plays an important role and is in many cases characterised by mutual support.


Although staff councils are a widespread and a very interesting type of representation because staff councils represent both employees and civil servants who are employed in two distinctly different employment systems, staff councils are widely under-researched. This paper enriches empirical knowledge about labour relations and introduces the notion of a “trimorphic system of interest representation”.



The authors would like to thank the anonymous referees for their helpful comments and advice and the Hans Böckler Foundation for funding the research projects, which provided the empirical basis for this article (for the latter, we received no specific funding).


Müller, A. and Schmidt, W. (2023), "Staff councils and their power resources – Workplace representation in German municipalities", Employee Relations, Vol. 45 No. 1, pp. 106-120.



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