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Works council has no right to external internet access or to a phone separate from the company telecommunication system

The district labour court of Lower Saxony (LAG Niedersachsen 30.07.2014, 16 TaBV 92/13) has rejected a claim of a works council to be provided by the company with unrestricted internet access and a telephone line separate from the company’s systems.

The works council’s request was based on the fact that the company restricted internet access via the company’s server so no websites with illegal content and certain other sites could not be visited. Furthermore the works council was concerned about the company’s ability to review and control internet use via its server. As regards the phone system it was also possible for the company to check the data created by the works council’s phone.

According to the works constitution act the company has to provide the works council with all equipment necessary to comply with its statutory duties. This includes information and communication facilities like internet access and phone. However, this right is not unlimited. According to the court the interests of the company have also to be considered when deciding what is necessary. By doing so the court found that the works council may work on the company’s standard phone line and internet server. Separate phone line and internet access would create unnecessary additional cost. Furthermore, the works council and the management used to communicate via e-mail and intranet. To exchange such communication – including personal data of employees – via an external server would create an additional unnecessary security risk.

The works council’s concerns regarding privacy were countered by the company’s affirmation that it would agree with the works council in not using the control capacities of the systems.

In summary: Works councils can request to be provided with internet and phone without its use being under observation of the management. However, this does not give a right to separate systems or servers as long as the company agrees not to use the technical possibilities to control the communication or internet use of the works council.