Staff councils go to court: bamf wants to respect the law in the future

The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees is fighting with its staff councils in court. Employees distrust the authority’s management.

The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees has lost the trust of its employees Photo: dpa

Munich, Bavarian Administrative Court, Room 1. Theresia Koch seems close to despair. The judge is presiding over an appeal hearing on the hiring policies of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bamf). "I don’t know how to solve anything in these proceedings," she complains right at the beginning, "if it’s always just about little things." Only to say a few sentences later, "Surely it must be possible to find a solution."

Finally, Koch appeals to the representatives of the Bamf as well as its staff councils: "Somehow, you have to get back to a basis of trusting cooperation." But that is likely to be the real problem. This basis no longer seems to exist. At least on the part of the staff councils, it is above all mistrust of the authority management that prevails. Rudolf Scheinost, Chairman of the General Staff Council, makes no secret of this: "They are always playing for time."

In this specific case, it is about two orders under the then Bamf head Frank-Jurgen Weise: First, the agency had hired 343 new employees at short notice at the beginning of 2016 in the wake of the refugee crisis – without the consent of the staff council. The council complained that there had been 40,000 to 50,000 regular applications for the positions. Instead of relying on these, the authorities had used a file from the Federal Employment Agency.

Shift work in arrival centers is illegal

On the other hand, shift work had been ordered in the arrival centers in Passau and Rosenheim – also on its own. Both had already been declared illegal by the Ansbach Administrative Court last summer. However, the Bamf appealed against this ruling.

After all, there is no question that the complaints of the staff councils are admissible, says now Judge Koch. "I also understand that people are upset." The only problem: The Bamf also admits that the decisions were illegal. So the question is not who is right, but: What follows from this? Above all, the staff councils want the authority to be certified as having acted unlawfully. The Bamf wants to prevent the Ansbach ruling from having a negative impact on the new employees, for example by having to terminate their contracts.

After a long struggle and good coaxing by the judge, a compromise is reached: the proceedings are to be suspended until the employment contracts have expired anyway. After that, the Bamf wants to withdraw its appeal against the Ansbach ruling.

In addition, the Bamf management declares that it is aware that the introduction of shift work is subject to co-determination and undertakes to consult the staff council in future before introducing it. Or as one of the honorary judges quietly comments: "The Bamf undertakes to respect the law in the future."

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