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Germany: Judges reject building company’s human rights complaint against social welfare contribution

Judges have ruled that a German company’s obligation to participate in a the construction industry’s social welfare fund did not breach European human rights law.

In a 2 June judgment in the case of Geotech Kancev GmbH v. Germany (application no. 23646/09) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

no violation of Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) of the European Convention on Human Rights,

and

no violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property) to the Convention.

The case concerned a company’s complaint about its obligation to participate in a social welfare fund jointly set up by employers’ associations and the trade union in the building industry.

The court found that, while the obligation to contribute to the fund could be regarded as creating an incentive for the applicant company to join one of the employers’ associations in the building industry in order to be able to exercise control over the activities of the fund, such an incentive was too remote to strike at the very substance of its right to freedom of association.

The court noted in particular that: the company’s contributions could be used exclusively for the administration and implementation of social welfare schemes; members of the associations which had set up the fund did not receive a more favourable treatment than non-members as regards transparency and accountability; and there was a high degree of control by public authorities.

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