New employment conditions introduced in public sector
Since 1 January 2004, the public sector in Slovakia has been subject to new employment conditions, affecting both the civil and the public services. Many privileges have been abolished, while employee responsibility and obligations have been increased and the wage system has been changed.
New Acts on the Civil Service and on the Public Service came into force in April 2002 (SK0206102F) regulating the employment conditions of public sector employees, which had previously been regulated only by the Labour Code. The two Acts were an attempt to address a lack of flexibility in employment conditions, poor public sector competitiveness in comparison with the private sector and inadequately motivating wages. However, certain reservations were expressed from the outset, and both laws were subject to major amendments in 2003, which came into force on 1 January 2004.
Act 552 of 2003 on Services of General Interest is a completely new law replacing the 2002 Act on the Public Service. The new Act is significantly shorter than its predecessor (only 16 articles in contrast to 59). This simplification was achieved by omitting wage regulations for employees providing 'services of general interest', whose employment conditions are governed by the Labour Code. The new Act lays down the obligations and restrictions to which employees performing services of general interest are subject while another new law, Act 553 of 2003 on Remuneration of Employees Performing Services of General Interest, regulates their wages.
The most important changes made by the new legislation are as follows:
- the scope has been widened. The law now applies to legal entities established by state bodies, the National Property Fund (Fond národného majetku Slovenskej republiky), which implements privatisation projects, municipalities and so on, if their share in the ownership of these entities is more than 67%.
- a 'zero-tolerance' policy has been adopted concerning corruption in services of general interest;
- a special legal guarantee has been introduced for those applying for a job through a recruitment tender - applicants can appeal to a court of law in case of alleged violations of their rights;
- in addition to employees' obligations, certain restrictions are laid down aimed at protecting the reputation of employees providing services of general interest;
- chief executives in statutory bodies cannot conduct any business activities and cannot be members of the management, control or supervisory bodies of companies performing business activities;
- the wage system has been amended significantly. Wage rates are determined only for the employees of primary and secondary schools and educational, cultural and social establishments. Wages for other public service employees are now to be agreed in individual contracts in accordance with the Labour Code;
- the wages of employees of the regional county administrations (Vyššie územné celky), municipalities and public universities are to be determined by the employer, which can decide whether employees will have individual wage contracts or be paid in line with existing wage rates (as before the new legisaltion came into force).
The scope of the public service sectoral collective agreement concluded for 2004 has also been changed (SK0401109N). The previous agreement, which reduced working time and provided longer paid leave, has been annulled. Public service employees can now negotiate these issues in local-level collective agreements.
Turning to civil servants, Act 551 of 2003 represents a major amendment of the Act on the Civil Service. In contrast to the existing practice whereby the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family (Ministerstvo práce, sociálnych vecí a rodiny Slovenskej republiky, MPSVR SR) prepared the original Act on the Civil Service, the 2003 amendments were proposed by the Civil Service Office (Úrad pre štátnu službu). The main changes affecting civil service employees are as follows:
- a new recruitment procedure (so-called 'mass recruitment') may be announced by the chair of the recruitment committee when a large number of new civil service recruits is required;
- apart from the existing forms of permanent, temporary and preparatory civil service employment (SK0206102F), there is now a new category - government-appointed civil servants based on successful passing of the relevant exam organised by the Civil Service Office;
- severance pay has been reduced from five months' pay to two month's pay or three months' pay (for those with more than two years' service);
- the wage system has also changed. A performance-based points system has been introduced, whereby the wage rate can be increased depending on the number of points accumulated. In addition, the wage rate is increased by 1% for every year of employment accrued up to 31 December 2003;
- the gratuity awarded to employees on top of their old-age or invalidity pension has been reduced from 10 months' (basic) pay to one month's pay. However, it is possible to increase this amount in the sectoral collective agreement; and
- additional health care, including medical care for family members, and pension benefits have been abolished.
The government, the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family and the Civil Service Office expect that the new legislation will lead to greater employment flexibility and efficiency in the public sector. Several civil service privileges, which had been widely criticised, have been abolished. At the same time, it is hoped that employment in the public sector will become as attractive and interesting as that in the business sector. One of the most important aspects of the Act on the Civil Service is its amendment of the Act on Collective Bargaining, which includes restoration of local-level negotiation of collective agreements, also in service offices. Collective bargaining in the civil service was previously possible only at the sectoral level. The scope of local collective bargaining is laid down in the civil service sectoral collective agreement each year (SK0405101N). This change will increase the autonomy of local trade union organisations and decentralise social dialogue to the local level for the civil service. (Mariana Munková and Ludovít Czíria, Bratislava Centre for Work and Family Studies)