Social dialogue & conflict resolution mechanisms


Social dialogue and conflict resolution mechanisms in the acceding countries: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia

Prague, 14-16 January 2004

Discussion paper - Mgr. Lenka Korcová
Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs Czech Republic

Social dialogue and dispute settlement mechanism

Social dialogue may be one of the solutions on how to come to terms with conflicting opinions. The search for a mutual solution to problems and the setting of similar goals is connected to the ideal of the possibility of achieving social harmony and its positive influence on the development of society. It was this communication between government, trade unions and employers after 1989 that created an important precondition for the transformation of society and the market economy. Social partnership importantly influenced the transformation process and at the same time changed as a result of the development of political, economic, and social conditions. It can be considered a fully functional accessory of the pluralist system of political democracy where it operates as a means of solving relations and preventing conflicts of interest. Social harmony based on dialogue and cooperation is one of the requirements for maintaining economic growth in the Czech Republic.

In the period after 1989, the government, in cooperation with trade unions and emerging entrepreneurial and employer associations, decided to create a settlement institution in the form of a tripartite. The Council of Economic and Social Agreement (RHSD) is today a united voluntary conciliatory and initiative body of the government, trade unions and employers for reaching agreements in fundamental questions of economic and social development.

Conditions for membership of the delegation of employee representatives in the RHSD are met by two unions – the Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions (CMKOS) and the Association of Independent Unions (ASO). The largest is CMKOS, which is made up of 32 trade unions with around one million members. Other union groups are the Confederation for Art and Culture and the Christian Coalition of Trade Associations of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia; however, these do not meet the requirements for membership of the delegation of employee representatives in the RHSD.

The representatives of employers in the tripartite who meet the conditions for membership of the delegation of employers are the Confederation of Employers’ and Entrepreneurs’ Associations of the Czech Republic and the Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic.

After coming to power, the socio-democratic government began to exploit some other forms of social dialogue at national level with the aim of involving the widest possible cross-section of the public, in particular non-governmental organisations, civic initiatives and independent experts, in the preparation of concepts and legal amendment in the areas of employment, social security, job security, etc.

Therefore, the foundation of social dialogue is the adoption of the goals of economic and social policy by participants and the recognition of the usefulness of cooperation and social harmony, which lead to the accomplishment of goals better than the way of open dispute

Some of the most important legal mechanisms for the solving of disputes in the Czech Republic are the institutions of mediators and arbitrators and the right to strike and lockout. Very well-tried and well-used in practice is the institution of mediators and arbitrators. A detailed definition can be found in the Collective Bargaining Act. According to the information from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, between 1997 and November 2003, approximately 200 disputes were settled by mediators and about 20 by arbitrators.

Lockout is defined in the Collective Bargaining Act. It is the power of an employer, on fulfilling legal conditions, to stop work partially or completely. According to information from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, in practice this institution for the settlement of disputes is not used.

In the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, which forms part of the Constitution of the Czech Republic, it is stated that the right to strike is guaranteed by conditions stipulated by law. However, only strikes in the case of disputes over the conclusion of collective agreements and solidarity strikes to support employees striking for the conclusion of a collective agreement are addressed by the law. This does not mean, however, that all types of strikes other than those addressed by the Collective Bargaining Act are prohibited . The court decides if a particular strike is legal or not.

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