Slovakia: Latest working life developments – Q1 2017

The adoption of the new civil service act, which comes into force on 1 June, and the fragmentation of the metalworking trade unions at Volkswagen Slovakia are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Slovakia in the first quarter of 2017.

New civil service act

On 1 February, parliament adopted the new civil service act (Act 55/2017 Coll.). This replaces the previous civil service act (Act 400/2009 Coll.) and comes into force on 1 June. The new law establishes the Council for the Civil Service as an independent coordinating and monitoring body. It will safeguard the civil service’s principles as well as supervise compliance with the Code of Ethics of a civil servant.

The act also establishes a central information system for the civil service to improve the planning and management of human resources. It introduces an upper age limit for civil servants – 65 years with a possible extension up to 68 years.

The social partners discussed the draft act at the Economic and Social Council on 15 August 2016. However, only the Confederation of Trade Unions of the Slovak Republic (KOZ SR) suggested that any alterations proposing that civil servants’ length of service should be calculated not only on the basis of years worked in the service but also on the period of time they have carried out work in the public interest. However, in September 2016, when the government approved the draft act, these suggestions were not incorporated.

On 6 December 2016, parliament adopted the bill but the Slovak President, Andrej Kiska, returned it for renegotiation, as he was not satisfied with the proposed balance of competences between the Office of the President and other institutions. Nevertheless, the parliament adopted the new act again without considering the President’s comments and it has now been published in the Collection of Laws without the President’s signature.

Disputes between the trade unions at Volkswagen Slovakia

Volkswagen Slovakia (VW Slovakia) is one of the largest employers in the country with about 10,700 employees. The trade unions at the company had wanted to start negotiations on a new collective agreement in January 2017 but, instead, are divided following developments in October 2016.

Disagreements between the local branch of the metalworking union OZ KOVO and its sectoral association led to the existing local unions breaking away and establishing what they called ‘Modern Volkswagen Unions’ (Moderné odbory Volkswagen, MOV) at the company alongside a new local OZ KOVO branch. The sectoral association of OZ KOVO said the new organisation was in breach of union rules, which the branch denied.

The chair of MOV, Zoroslav Smolinský, says the situation in the Slovak labour market is substantially changing. To retain employees, employers should pay higher wages and provide better working conditions. MOV is demanding a 16% increase in wage tariffs, unification of holiday and Christmas bonuses, higher wage supplements for shift work, longer basic paid holiday and paid time off.

MOV, which represents about 7,300 employees at VW Slovakia, wishes to negotiate higher wages and better working conditions for all employees at the company. However, negotiations have stalled because there is no agreement on how MOV and the OZ KOVO branch will deal jointly with VW Slovakia management.

The two trade unions blame each other for blocking the negotiations but are seeking a commonly acceptable solution. There are no major differences in their demands. While MOV is calling for a 16% increase in wage tariffs, the new OZ KOVO branch wants a fixed monthly increase of €120 and an increase in average wages of at least €160.

On 10 February, VW Slovakia managers asked the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family (MPSVR SR) for an arbitrator to settle the unions’ dispute. No information is available on the arbitrator’s decision. The previous collective agreement will stand until a new one is signed.

Labour Code amendments

The amendments to the Labour Code, which ban retail sales in Slovakia during public holidays (a total of 16 days a year), will enter into force on 1 June.

Commentary

Although the civil service act affects a relatively small number of employees within the public service (about 38,500 people or 10% of public service employees), the government is hoping it will improve the quality of civil service performance. Negotiations for the new collective agreement at VW Slovakia will probably start in April 2017.

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