Heuking successful in front of Federal Labor Court on behalf of German port companies

On behalf of several German port companies, a team led by Dr. Andreas Walle, Partner at the Hamburg office, successfully defended lawsuits filed by general port workers („Gesamthafenarbeiter“) that aimed to establish permanent employment relationships. Heuking succeeded in having the appeals filed in three (model) procedures dismissed before the Federal Labor Court’s 9th Panel in Erfurt (Cases 9 AZR 477/21, 9 AZR 478/21, and 9 AZR 476/21). The port companies have now obtained legal certainty regarding their staffing structure and the associated HR planning. The general port operators („Gesamthafenbetriebes“) in the German seaports will continue to provide qualified port workers to the port companies on a shift basis, thus limited to a single working day, to cover peak demands. These port workers will not be able to claim permanent employment relationships with the port companies.

The decision was preceded by mass proceedings filed by general port workers in the state of Bremen, who asserted the existence of a permanent employment relationship with the port companies that employed them by virtue of legal fiction in accordance with Sections 9(1)(1), 10 Act on Temporary Employment („Arbeitnehmerüberlassungsgesetz“, „AÜG“) or, alternatively, on the basis of invalid fixed-term contracts. The team led by Dr. Walle prevailed in all cases before Bremen/Bremerhaven Labor Court on behalf of its clients.

In June 2021, Bremen Regional Labor Court had also ruled in favor of the port companies in three model procedures relating to NTB North Sea Terminal Bremerhaven GmbH, expressly allowing the appeal. As for these three model procedures, all other pending cases were suspended.

The Federal Labor Court’s ruling has now resolved fundamental issues on the scope of the law on temporary employment, the regulatory power of the parties to the collective agreements, and the law on fixed-term contracts. It represents one of the most important decisions for the German seaports and for the entire industry.

Counsel to German port companies
Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek:

Dr. Andreas Walle (Lead)
Dr. Eva Kettner, LL.B.
Dr. Luisa M. Sandforth, LL.B.
Theresa Arndt, LL.M. (all Employment), all Hamburg

Download as PDF

Contact persons

You are currently using an outdated and no longer supported browser (Internet Explorer). To ensure the best user experience and save you from possible problems, we recommend that you use a more modern browser.