EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Slovakia: Latest working life developments – Q3 2017

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The teachers’ union refusal to sign government memorandum agreeing not to engage in further wage bargaining and a split in the the energy sector trade unions are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Slovakia in the third quarter of 2017.

Teachers' union refuse to sign government memorandum

The government committed itself in its programme statement of 13 April 2016, to increase the salaries of teachers and university lecturers by 6% from 1 September 2016, and by a further 6% from 1 January 2018 – the highest salary increase for public servants to date.

In 2017, the Trade Union of Workers in Education and Science (OZPSaV) negotiated with the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports of the Slovak Republic to increase teachers’ salaries by 6% from 1 September 2017. The salary increase was implemented under government Regulation No. 202/2017 Coll., which increased the salary scales of public employees.

The government also wished to implement a memorandum in which it would guarantee a further salary increase of 6% in September 2018, as well as in 2019, and also from 1 January 2020. In return, Prime Minister Robert Fico said the government required the trade unions to sign the memorandum and demand no further salary increases until the end of the present government’s term in 2020.

Nevertheless, on 30 August 2017, the council of OZPSaV announced its decision not to sign the proposed memorandum. The council argued that, because of rising inflation and the positive outlook for the Slovak economy, it would refuse to waive its constitutional right to collective bargaining every year for better wages and working conditions. The council also asked the government to continue, in line with its statement that education is a priority issue, with yearly improvements to what is still inadequate pay for all education employees.

More fragmentation of the trade unions

Trade unions in Slovakia are somewhat centralised and local trade unions in companies are usually affiliated to the related sectoral associations – mainly to the Confederation of Trade Unions (KOZ SR). However, recent developments indicate some fragmentation of trade unions. For example, the split in the Metal Trade Union Association (OZ KOVO) at Volkswagen Slovakia in 2016 was generated by disagreements between the local branch of the union and its sectoral association. This set about the establishment of the Modern Volkswagen Unions (MOV).

It seems that the fragmentation of trade unions in Slovakia continues. The local trade union organisation of the Energy and Chemical Trade Union Association (ECHOZ) in the Slovnaft-MOL oil refinery in Bratislava has also split. Apart from the existing local trade union organisation of ECHOZ, a new trade union association was established at the refinery in July 2017. According to its founder, Jan Sykora, the Člen (Member) was established because of disagreements with the company management and the dissatisfaction of some members with ECHOZ.

The President of ECHOZ, Juraj Blahak, does not consider the establishment of the new trade union fair because his union was told about it by company management, rather than by the representatives of the Člen. Its establishment also can be attributed to the personal interests of some members of the existing local trade union in the forthcoming elections to the attractive posts on the supervisory board of Slovnaft-MOL, on which the trade unions also serve. The Člen operates in the company in parallel with the local branch of ECHOZ and according to the Mr Blahak, trade union density in the company is about 50%, but the density of the new union is much lower, at an estimated 5%–7%.

Commentary

In response to OZPSaV’s decision not to sign the memorandum, the government considered reversing its decision and postponing the 6% salary increase from 1 September 2017 to 1 January 2018. But, after consultations in the coalition, it decided to keep its original decision. The fragmentation of unions is a challenge for the original union, as well as for the new one, to be more competitive. However, new trade unions now have a chance to increase union density by attracting new employees.

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