Membership of Chamber of Commerce and Industry to be voluntary
In May 2006, the Slovenian parliament adopted the new Law on Chambers of Commerce and Industry (LCCI). According to the new LCCI, membership of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia will no longer be compulsory but will become voluntary for companies.
Preparation for a new Law on Chambers of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) began a year ago when, on 7 June 2005, the Ministry of the Economy (Ministrstvo za gospodarstvo, MG) published its guidelines for a new draft LCCI (SI0506302F). On 26 May 2006, the Slovenian parliament adopted the new LCCI.
Provisions of new law
The new LCCI determines the status of the chambers of commerce and industry; it sets out the procedure for the establishment, operations and cessation of operations of the organisation, and lays down provisions for the modernisation of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia (Gospodarska zbornica Slovenije, GZS) (SI0211102F).
According to the new LCCI, membership of the GZS will no longer be compulsory but will become voluntary for companies.
Up to now, Slovenia has retained a system whereby all enterprises and craftworkers were organised in ‘chambers’ (controlled by the state), of which membership was obligatory. This contravened the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions, which provide for freedom of association of employers and workers.
At the beginning of Slovenia’s socioeconomic transition that set in train a prolonged privatisation process of state-owned companies, GZS was the only organisation representing the interests of employers and enterprises. Nevertheless, ‘real’ employers only began to appear after the emergence of ‘real’ owners with the transformation of old socialist-era enterprises and, to a lesser extent, after the establishment of new enterprises. The same was true for employer organisations.
Following the country’s transition to a democratic society with an open market economy, the mandates of the chambers of commerce and industry were extended, which allowed them to also function as employer organisations with bargaining powers, alongside employer organisations of a more conventional type. The chambers had two main functions in this regard: an employer function (negotiating) and a promotional function (involving trade and business).
The new LCCI does not affect other Slovenian organisations having compulsory membership that function as employer organisations and that also conclude collective agreements on the employers’ side.
One such organisation is the Chamber of Crafts of Slovenia (Obrtna zbornica Slovenije, OZS) of which membership is obligatory. The OZS is a subsidiary organisation of the GZS and represents independent craftworkers and small enterprises. It has one representative member on the Economic and Social Council of Slovenia (Ekonomsko socialni svet Slovenije, ESSS) (SI0207103F);
Another such chamber is the Doctors’ Chamber of Slovenia (Zdravniška zbornica Slovenije, ZZS) with compulsory membership among all doctors and dentists (SI0510307F). It has signed a number of collective agreements in the health sector as an employer organisation representing doctors in private practices. Alongside the Ministry of Health (Ministrstvo za zdravje, MZ), which acts as the public sector employer in this sector, the ZZS has signed collective agreements for doctors and dentists, nurses, and other healthcare and social care workers.
It is now possible that, besides the GZS, more chambers of commerce and industry, and employer organisations of a more conventional type will emerge. In this case, both will be equally entitled to represent employer interests.
However, the representativeness criteria in the new LCCI do not refer to collective bargaining and tripartite consultation. Therefore, a regulation setting out the criteria of employer organisations’ representativeness for the purposes of concluding collective agreements and representation on tripartite bodies is another urgent issue that 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, the issue of employer organisations’ representativeness remains unresolved to date.
Štefan Skledar, Institute of Macroeconomic Analysis and Development (IMAD)