Voluntary and state-free standardization, organized for many years by the German Institute for Standardization (DIN), is a natural self-governing task of industry. DIN standards have earned a good reputation in the world and in Germany over decades. Technical standards in particular have contributed to the success of "Made in Germany". The latest developments, however, as well as the extension of the topics to areas reserved for the social partners, are more than alarming.
Standardization in its original form is a means of economic policy to strengthen the national internal market in the long term. The focus is on the standardization of technical products and processes, which primarily cover the industrial sector. At European level, technical standardization also plays a key role in strengthening the European Economic Area and the borderless transfer of technologies and innovations (New Legislative Framework).
Tariff autonomy, company partnerships and entrepreneurial freedom affected
In recent years, however, the activities of DIN and, above all, of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) have increasingly extended into subject areas which are protected by the Basic Law as the primary field of activity of the industrial and social partners. Thus, there is a rapidly growing number of standardization projects, particularly in the areas of company personnel policy and occupational health and safety. Other standards which directly affect the social partners can be found in the areas of corporate social responsibility, whistleblowing, sustainable finance and compliance. An illustrative example of this is the ISO standardization project "Human Resource Management", which, with a large number of ongoing or completed individual projects, affects almost all areas of company personnel policy. The ISO project "Compensation" is particularly explosive in terms of personnel policy, as it aims to establish comprehensive, general rules for the area of remuneration, its design, processes, composition and responsibilities for all companies, regardless of size. The standardization project goes far beyond what is provided for, for example, by the Remuneration Transparency Act or the Minimum Wage Act in the private and public sectors. This undermines the regulations on pay that have been jointly negotiated in collective bargaining and company agreements.
Individual interests must not prevail over democratic design processes
These initiatives are very often driven by individual interests and management consultants. As a result of such activities, employers, but also employees in Germany, are increasingly running the risk that operational room for manoeuvre is unnecessarily and -- unasked for - restricted. Although the application of a norm is basically voluntary, it can lead to a de facto compulsion to apply it due to its general acceptance as state of the art and can even become part of case law through the interpretation of indeterminate legal terms. In the DIN advisory committees, all representatives have equal weight, regardless of how many companies or employees they speak for, so that individual interests can be enforced by a majority in the committees. In particular, the autonomy of collective bargaining, as a supporting pillar of the social market economy and guarantor of social peace and prosperity in Germany, is in danger of being restricted and undermined by such standardization projects.
Limitation of standardization in the area of interest of the social partnership
It is not acceptable for interested parties to produce questionable "standards" in their own interests which damage the good reputation of the DIN standard and "impose" bureaucratic regulations on all employers which go far beyond the deliberate self-restrictions of the legislator.
The BDA has therefore already specifically stepped up its involvement in standardization work together with its members and is participating in the various standardization projects and the work in the various national and international standardization organizations. The aim must be to work above all for the preservation of operational room for manoeuvre. There should be a clear differentiation between technical standards and socio-political standards. It is not acceptable for DIN to reinforce the international trend towards standardization in the socio-political field by expanding its business model. Here, self-regulation by industry and thus, in this case, by the social partners, no longer exists and goes far beyond the interests of companies.