It is a great honour for me to introduce Professor Monika Schlachter as one of the recipients of this year’s Bob Hepple award for her distinguished achievements in labour law. This is even more special for it marks the tenth anniversary of the Labour Law Research Network, a Network which Monika has been an active member of since its establishment in 2011. It is an enormous pleasure for me to introduce you to a sharp and open-minded labour law scholar and a very pleasant, helpful, and humorous travel companion as well as a role model.
Let me first start with Monika’s scholarly achievements. When looking at Monika’s track record, it becomes immediately clear that she has immensely contributed to the discipline and further development of labour law. Not only at the national level, in Germany, but very importantly also at the international and European level since she started her academic career in the 1980s.
Her academic adventure started at the University of Göttingen. Not only did Monika study law in Göttingen, but she also received her doctorate as well as her Habilitation. For those of you who are not familiar with the German legal system, a Habilitation is a postdoctoral teaching qualification required for a career in higher education in addition to a doctoral thesis.
Monika’s interest in studying labour law beyond the German borders and to explore the impact of international and European labour law on national law as well as comparative labour law certainly has been inspired while she was a research assistant of Professor Franz Gamillscheg in Göttingen. Since then, she has become a leading expert in the field of labour law. Knowing Monika for more than ten years now when I was working on my PhD thesis, I can say for sure that she has inspired her colleagues in Jena, Regensburg, and now also Trier, to look beyond one’s own jurisdiction.
Monika’s extensive body of work covers many fundamental areas within labour law, a large number of them addressing the increasing influence of EU law on national labour law as well as the relevance of international labour rights in the EU and national legal systems. Quite early on, she studied various crucial elements in collective labour law. For instance, in her doctoral thesis she focused on methods of interpretation in labour law, in particular focusing the works council’s right of co-determination. Connecting the collective elements of labour law with non-discrimination law, she has published on the prohibition of age discrimination and analysed the extent to which social partners play a role in this. One of her recent edited collections, published in 2019, scrutinises the right to strike in essential services from a comparative ‘law in action’ perspective.
Comparative labour law always has been at the heart of Monika’s scholarship, of which her monograph Ways to Equality - A Comparative Legal Study of Labour Law in the Federal Republic and the United States is only one example. Embracing the need to look beyond one’s own jurisdiction is closely linked to studying the mobility of workers, either via the free movement of workers or the posting of workers, and in particular also the role of private international law in governing the law of employment contract. It is this area of expertise that has resulted in her engagement in the multi-annual FORMULA project. The FORMULA project, for those of you who are not familiar with it, was a project on the Free movement, labour market regulation and multilevel governance in the enlarged EU/EEA, taking a Nordic and comparative perspective on issues that raised in the context of the EU enlargements and the mobility of workers. Her three thematic papers in this project addressed the role of the Services Directive (2009), the Posting of Workers Directive (2010), and the linkages of the former with the Temporary Agency Workers Directive (2012).
Monika’s publications and engagement mentioned so far provide only a glimpse of academic achievements through which she contributed to the development and further understanding of labour law as a field. It is fair to say that Monika’s interest in exploring labour law beyond the national legal boundaries and, perhaps even more importantly, her choice in persistently pursuing that interest, a choice which I can imagine has not been an easy one considering the fact that she started her academic career in the 1980s, offers some insight in Monika as a person. Namely that you can come quite far if you remain authentic. Yet her choice to follow her passion has resulted in she being awarded with the prestigious Bob Hepple award today.
Besides being a passionate academic who shares her enthusiasm about international and European as well as comparative labour law with other scholars across Europe, Monika also immensely contributed to promote the importance of international social rights. Not least due to the fact that she has been a member and also Vice-President of the European Committee of Social Rights, the guardian of the European Social Charter, meeting seven times a year usually in Strasbourg.
It is worth mentioning that Monika was the rapporteur of one of most well-known Decisions of the Committee, namely the Irish Congress of Trade Unions versus Ireland Decision which was submitted to the Committee in 2016 (No. 123/2016). This case concerned the question whether excluding self-employed workers from concluding collective agreements setting out minimum rates of pay and other working conditions, which would amount to a breach of competition law, does violate Art 6 ESC.
However, limiting this laudatio only to Monika’s academic achievements would not do justice to the person she is. Therefore, I think it is time to say something about the peculiar place where Monika is working, which might may have had an impact on her scholarship as well.
Monika is an exceptional person, one of the warmest, most authentic, and generous people I have met over the past ten years within the labour law academy, giving helpful advice whenever being asked to do so and being supportive of young and in particular female academics. If I remember correctly, Monika once told me that she also is a mentor for female scholars at her current institution in Trier, assisting younger scholars to pursue their own path either within academia and also outside.
Moreover, when visiting Monika at her Institute for Labour Law and Industrial Relations in the European Union in Trier, you can observe her being part of a motivated group of scholars and she is interested in their professional and private well-being. The daily lunch I was welcome to join when at the institute in the canteen is part of her way to see her colleagues and visiting scholars and to engage with them.
Before coming to an end, I should say something about the place where Monika works. Some of you may have visited her at the Institute of which she is the director and you perhaps may share my impressions I am going to share. Those of you who have not visited Trier yet, I can only wholeheartedly recommend you to do so. Overall, it is safe to say that the Institute is quite remote and that is due to the fact that it takes quite some travel time to get there, for there is no fast and direct train connection to Trier and the nearest airport is Luxembourg. However, once you arrive, you will find the Institute up hill, where you will have a tremendous view on the city of Trier, which is of historical importance itself. The Institute is located in the beautiful Moselle region and surrounded by one of German’s most beautiful vineyards. Yet, the place with its enormous library and its location does remind me a little bit of Thomas Mann’s Zauberberg, or the Magic Mountain. Please don’t get me wrong to think that the Institute resembles some kind of sanatorium, quite the contrary. But having a research institute up hill, with so many windows available into all four directions that allow you to take a glaze at the surroundings, facilitates an all-round view and vision, features that are clearly reflected in Monika’s work and life.
To conclude, it is my great pleasure to present to you the Bob Hepple lifetime achievements award to you as a gesture of appreciation for your contribution to the discipline of labour law. Therefore, I would like to invite you to raise your glass and toast to the humorous and generous scholar who has left and will continue to leave an indelible mark in the labour law scholarship.
Miriam Kullmann (VU Amsterdam)