Czech Republic: First higher-level collective agreement in public sector signed
The adoption of the Czech Civil Service Act in November 2014 established a section of the Ministry of the Interior that could conclude a higher-level collective agreement with four trade unions in late 2015. The long-awaited agreement was approved by the government on 21 December and signed on 22 December 2015. It applies to all employees covered by the Civil Service Act.
The long-awaited higher-level collective agreement for civil service employees was signed on 22 December 2015 at the Government Office of the Czech Republic. This followed the adoption of the Civil Service Act (Zákon o státní službě, Act No. 234/2014 Coll) in November 2014, which regulates collective bargaining conditions in the civil service. It also establishes who, on the employers’ side, is entitled to conclude a collective agreement.
Before the act came into force, no authority on the side of the employer had the competence to conclude a higher-level collective agreement on behalf of the civil service. Under the new act, however, the competent authority is now a ‘high-grade official’– the government appointing Josef Postránecký as the Deputy Minister of the Interior for Civil Service for a six-year term on 28 January 2015. According to the act, the civil service at individual ministries and at the Government Office is now managed by 15 individual state secretaries. The ‘high-grade official’ is empowered to lead the collective bargaining procedure on behalf of the government and to conclude a collective agreement to be signed by the Prime Minister.
Negotiations on the content of the agreement
On 27 March 2015, the unions submitted an initial draft collective agreement to the Deputy Minister of Interior, followed by several official and unofficial rounds of unsuccessful negotiations. In July 2015, the Czech government, in accordance with its resolution No. 625/2015 Coll. (PDF), required the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Ms Michaela Marksová, in cooperation with the Finance Minister Andrej Babiš and Minister of the Interior Milan Chovanec, to submit a draft collective agreement and to commence collective negotiations with the relevant trade unions.
Between August and December 2015, further consultations and negotiations were held between the social partners with a view to concluding a collective agreement that would apply to all employees covered by the Civil Service Act (approximately 69,000).
The text of the draft collective agreement presented contained three controversial points; with compromise reached on two, while the third was withdrawn:
- The unions originally demanded six days of medical leave (sick days) whereas the government proposed only four days. A compromise was agreed at five days.
- The unions demanded that bonuses payable on ‘life anniversaries‘ (50 and 60 years of age) and the first retirement bonus should be paid from salaries (effectively from the state budget), while the government insisted that these bonuses should be paid partly from ‘cultural and social needs’ funds administered by the employer and consisting of deductions from employee gross wages. Following agreement between the parties, the bonuses will be paid from allocated salary funds.
- The unions originally demanded the inclusion of an increase in pay scales in the civil service of 25%; however, this proposal was withdrawn.
Participating trade unions
In total, four trade unions negotiated the collective agreement on behalf of civil servants, the most significant being the Trade Union on State Bodies and Organisations (OS SOO) who represent the employees of central state authorities and agencies with more than 15,000 members (as of 30 June 2015). The other negotiating trade unions, and signatories to the agreement, are:
- the Czech-Moravian Trade Union of Workers in Education (ČMOS PŠ) with over 21,000 members;
- the Trade Union of Health Service and Social Care in the Czech Republic (OSZSP ČR) with around 27,000 members;
- the Czech - Moravian Trade Union of Civilian Employees of the Army (ČMOSA) with almost 4,000 members.
The text of the agreement is available on the website of the Ministry of the Interior.
Content of agreement
State employees have been covered since the middle of 2015 by Government Regulation No. 135/2015 Coll. which gives them the right to one or two more days leave than employees whose conditions are governed by the Labour Code (PDF)
The new higher-level collective agreement states that all state employees are entitled to a number of extra benefits. Commencing 1 January, civil servants are entitled to the following benefits:
- the transfer of a part of holiday entitlement (maximum two weeks) to the following calendar year provided there are important reasons for doing so;
- five days of sickness absence without having to present documentation to prove an illness;
- fixed bonuses upon the completion of service anniversaries (for 10, 20, 30 and 40 years of service);
- fixed bonuses for life anniversaries (50 and 60 years of age) and upon retirement.
Employers, according to their operational capabilities, must ensure in particular:
- equipped kitchens or kitchenettes, hygiene needs and the provision of protective drinks (such as bottled natural mineral water) should the air temperature exceed 34C;
- appropriate measures are taken when the temperature in the building where the state employee works reaches 28C or more;
- the necessary amenities and working environment culture, including the provision of the optimal amount of workspace and, if necessary, access for the disabled;
- reimbursement of the costs of vaccination against infectious diseases hepatitis A and B for state employees, should they be at risk of infection when on duty;
- sports facilities for state employees and the right of state employees to use such sports facilities outside working hours;
- the option for state employees and their family members to use the recreational facilities of the employer at a price equal to the costs incurred plus VAT;
- meals for retired former civil servants, (if the operational conditions and financial resources of the employer organisation allow), and accommodation at the recreational facility (should there be spare capacity) at the same price as that paid by current civil servants.
The contractual parties may, in the context of a collective agreement at the level of individual state administration bodies or at the ministry level, negotiate the principles of the contributions of government employees to cultural and social needs funds in accordance with Decree No. 114/2002 Coll.
The collective agreement contains provisions stating that its validity is extended by one calendar year; either party can give written notice that it does not wish the HLCA to be extended. The validity of HLCA may be extended a maximum of twice.
Groups covered by agreement
The agreement covers 69,000 civil service employees (as at the end of 2015) consisting mainly of officials working for ministries, tax offices, the social security administration, labour offices and other central government authorities.
With regard to the health sector, the agreement covers officials employed by the 14 regional health authorities and the State Institute for Drug Control (SUKL), including officials employed by the Ministry of Health.
At the Ministry of Defence, the agreement covers non-military personnel, specifically officials working for the Ministry of Defence itself, personnel employed by the 14 regional military commands, employees working at the four military areas, and at the Office for Defence Standardisation, Codification and Quality Assurance (OSK SOJ). This does not include general staff of the Armed Force.
In the area of education, the agreement concerns just one office; the Czech School Inspectorate (CSI) which employs around 450 school inspectors, auditors, officials and managers at both the inspectorate’s headquarters and at its regional offices.
Importance of agreement
The signing of this agreement represents a significant step forward in collective bargaining at central government level. Overall, it should improve the working conditions of civil servants and also contribute to employment stability and professionalism. It is envisaged that it will also attract young employees to the state administration sector and strengthen the appeal of working for the state.
However, one further issue still remains to be solved in 2016; a new system of remuneration for civil servants in connection with § 199 of Act No. 234/2014 Coll., which is expected to come into force on 1 January 2017.