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I work as a doctor in a German hospital under municipal sponsorship. Our institution has its own collective agreement (not TV-Ärzte/VKA). This collective agreement regulates, among other things, both the recording of working hours and how overtime must be rewarded. This has worked well for my previous employers.

The hospital consists of dozens of clinics, in most of them the working hours are recorded and overtime is paid or compensated with free time.

In my clinic, however, there is no working time recording because the head physician rejects this. The corresponding intranet module is not activated for our clinic, according to the personnel department. My working time documentation on paper was not countersigned by my immediate superior ("we don't do that"). My colleagues and I are doing considerable extra work, which is neither remunerated nor compensated with free time. Often breaks are not possible due to the procedures and workload. Regularly there are violations of the rest periods stipulated in the Working Hours Act (Arbeitszeitgesetz) due to short-term changes in the duty roster.

We have regularly raised the issue with our boss (himself an employee of the hospital). He refuses to talk about the topic or freaks out. We took the problem to the works council, who spoke to our boss without any changes. The clinic (and therefore the hospital) benefits economically from the lower personnel costs in our department, our boss probably also has a contract in which the clinic profit is included in a performance-related payment.

What are my/our options to enforce our rights guaranteed by the collective agreement? Some of us have been advised to take individual legal action based on their private working time documentation, but colleagues want to be sure to complete their further training instead of being dismissed (which has already happened to other colleagues in the past).

PS: For me, quitting is not an option, I am location-bound, highly specialized and there are no job opportunities for my discipline in the wider area.

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    This is extremely specific and very likely what you need is proper legal advice, doubt that anyone here on the internets can give any sensible answer as you seem to have exhausted the "peaceful" ways. – Tymoteusz Paul Jan 12 '20 at 23:06
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    @TymoteuszPaul I and others have already had such advice, the recommendation is always to sue for uncompensated overtime. This is (currently) not possible for me, because I am interested in further employment. Accordingly I am looking for other recommendations to enforce our interests. – user71290900990 Jan 12 '20 at 23:14
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    I don't think you were given good value for whatever you paid for the advice them, especially if you've outlined that lawsuit is not one of the options. They should then be able to outline other courses of actions, that will be within confers of the law (I imagine that as we are talking healthcare this is a minefield of what you can and cannot do/refused to do). Anyway, please be very careful with taking advice from internet, especially if you've already had legal advice, as this can go bad very quickly. – Tymoteusz Paul Jan 12 '20 at 23:19
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    @TymoteuszPaul I am careful, thank you! – user71290900990 Jan 12 '20 at 23:20
  • "I and others have already had such advice" from whom? Actual lawyers? If you haven't done so already, you should seek out legal advice from local employment lawyers. Seeking legal advice from one doesn't necessarily mean you're going to sue. Suing is only but one of the tools they have in their toolbox. – Stephan Branczyk Jan 13 '20 at 9:22
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I would go back to the "works council" and tell them nothing have changed. Also speak to your union.

Another way to solve the problem that have worked for me in the past is to just start enforcing the rules. I understand that you have patient safety to take into consideration which makes it a bit hard to do. But for example, go to your boss immediately when your shift is up and tell them that there are tasks left to do that they must take care of. Then leave. It does not matter that some of the tasks have been assigned to you, ultimately your boss is responsible to get them done. They did not schedule enough staff and they are not paying you for your time. If they try to make you stay, ask how they want you to record the overtime.

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    Thanks for your comment. My union (Marburger Bund) refers me to the works council. My boss and probably also the hospital management have been holding them off for a long time with vague promises and declarations of intent. When individual colleagues raised the issue with the boss, they were either fired at the next opportunity or were so frustrated that they quit. – user71290900990 Jan 12 '20 at 23:16
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    Time for you to go back to your union and ask them how to escalate. – Emil Vikström Jan 12 '20 at 23:17
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    Of course, you know that doing more than 10 hours overtime per week is illegal in Germany. If the works council realize that lawyers will be involved, and criminal prosecution, then they ought to take action to prevent it. And the trade union should be the ones getting lawyers involved. – Mawg says reinstate Monica Jan 13 '20 at 6:08

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