Employer groups question representativeness criteria

In the past, Slovenia had a system whereby all enterprises and craftworkers were organised in chambers with obligatory membership. According to a recent law, membership of a chamber is voluntary for companies. However, some new chambers claim that the representativeness criteria are too stringent. They fear that the new Chamber of Commerce and Industry will acquire all of the assets of its former organisation, instead of sharing them with other representative chambers.

Background

For many years, all enterprises and craftworkers in Slovenia were organised in semi-state-owned or parastate chambers with obligatory membership. After the change in the country’s socioeconomic system, the mandates of these chambers were extended and they also operated as employer organisations, alongside conventional employer organisations. The chambers had two basic functions: one pertaining to the negotiating role of employers and the other to promotional initiatives in the area of trade and business.

The first conventional employer organisation with voluntary membership was the Slovenian Employers’ Association (Zdruzenje delodajalcev Slovenije, ZDS). It was founded on 22 February 1994, after the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia (Gospodarska zbornica Slovenije, GZS) concluded that a separate organisation for employers was the best solution. This decision was made following the advice of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organisation of Employers (IOE).

On the basis of the new Law on Chambers of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), adopted in May 2006 (SI0606019I), membership of a chamber is voluntary for companies (SI0510307F, SI0508303F). According to the ILO conventions, both chambers and conventional employer organisations are therefore equally entitled to represent employer interests.

Representativeness criteria

The LCCI states that a chamber is treated as representative if its members produce at least 10% of sales revenue in Slovenia and organise at least 5% of all companies that can join a chamber.

However, these representativeness criteria do not refer to collective bargaining and tripartite consultation. A regulation setting out the criteria of employer organisations’ representativeness for the purposes of concluding collective agreements and representation on tripartite bodies is therefore another urgent issue which the government must address. While such criteria for trade unions and their associations – as well as their status as legal entities – were determined many years ago (SI0210102F), the issue of employer organisations’ representativeness remains unresolved to date.

First representative chamber

On 27 May 2008, Slovenia’s largest chamber and employer organisation (SI0211102F), which was constituted anew from the former GZS a year ago, was awarded representative status. The new GZS, legal successor of the old GZS, thus became the first Slovenian chamber to be given this status as is required under the LCCI.

The new GZS has 18,610 members, which represents 17.66% of all companies that are eligible for membership, the revenues of which amounted to €31.233 billion in 2007 or 45.39% of all sales revenue in the Slovenian economy.

Other chambers

A new chamber and employer organisation, the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce (Trgovinska zbornica Slovenije, TZS), founded on 17 November 2006 and organising companies in the commerce sector (SI0711019I), also submitted an application to obtain representative status on 17 June 2008. At that time, it had 6,139 members, amounting to 5.83% of all companies that are eligible for membership, the revenues of which amounted to €16.5 billion in 2007 or 24.02% of all sales revenue in the Slovenian economy. TZS is still waiting to secure its representative status.

Meanwhile, the new Road Transport Chamber (Avtoprevozniška zbornica, AZ) was founded on 13 January 2007. Its President, Štefan Kocijančič, is also President of the Truck Drivers’ Union of Slovenia (Sindikat avtoprevoznikov Slovenije, SAS). AZ is likewise aiming towards achieving representative status.

Distribution of assets of former GZS

The assets of the former GZS are to be distributed among the new GZS, as legal successor of the former GZS, and other representative chambers. According to the LCCI, the deadline for the distribution expired on 24 June 2008, which was two years after the LCCI had come into force. After that date, the distribution is no longer possible. This means that, in order to acquire part of the assets of the old GZS, a chamber should have acquired representative status by 24 June 2008.

For this reason, TZS and AZ have appealed to the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Slovenia (Ustavno sodišče Republike Slovenije, USRS) to examine the constitutionality of certain LCCI provisions which refer to the distribution of the assets of the former GZS. TZS and AZ claim that the strict representativeness criteria make the development of new representative chambers impossible – particularly within two years of the LCCI coming into force – and therefore that the new GZS will acquire all of the assets of the former GZS.

USRS has suspended the implementation of these LCCI provisions until its final decision.

As an interesting side note, the trade union organisations reached agreement on the distribution of trade union assets in November 2006 after more than 15 years of negotiations (SI0701029I).

Commentary

It is uncertain whether a greater number of new conventional employer organisations will emerge in Slovenia in the future and whether some of these will again merge with chambers. In reality, Slovenia is a small country where it is difficult to find enough expertise and financial resources to organise an effective administration to support the different activities of an employer group; the country cannot afford too much splitting of resources. Furthermore, the chambers have wider responsibilities than conventional employer organisations.

Štefan Skledar, Institute of Macroeconomic Analysis and Development

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