SAP co-founder and shareholder Dietmar Hopp warned that the business software company could be forced to relocate its German headquarters if employees agree to a workers council at a meeting next week.
Although not opposed to workers councils in principle, Hopp expressed strong reservations about the influence of IG Metall, the German electronics and metal workers' union, in a podcast interview that the German business daily newspaper Handelsblatt made available on Tuesday.
One of Hopp's key concerns is IG Metall's rigid position on working hours. "If you need to ask the union whether you can stay to make a call to California at 11 p.m., then good night SAP," he said.
One of the possible consequences, Hopp said, would be to relocate the headquarters. He declined to say which locations would be suitable alternatives.
Hopp, who no longer holds an executive position at SAP, owns 10 percent of the company's stock.
Approximately 10,000 SAP employees at the company's headquarters in Walldorf and at another office site in the nearby village of St. Leon-Rot will vote on March 2 whether or not to establish a workers council.
"If a majority of our employees vote in favor of a workers council, then the company will support this decision," said SAP spokesman Frank Hartmann. "That's the law."
Hartmann declined to comment on the position of SAP's executive board, headed by Chief Executive Officer Henning Kagermann.
The German software maker is one of the largest companies in the country to be without a workers council.
Earlier attempts to establish such a representative body have failed, lacking majority support from SAP employees, according to a source close to the company who wished to remain anonymous.
Currently, SAP employees are represented by several employee representatives who are elected to the company's supervisory board, in line with German legal requirements, according to Hartmann. These representatives represent SAP's worldwide workforce of more than 32,000 people.