Employees have won a dispute with the employer
During the last year a labour dispute over higher wages arose between the employees and the employer of a paper mill company in Ružomberok. The dispute resulted in the dismissal of some of the protesting employees and in the establishment of a new trade union organization within the company. The dismissed workers brought a charge against the employer for unfair dismissal. The employees have recently won the dispute and the employer has to appoint them back.
In the autumn of 2004 a labour dispute over the wages arose in the paper mill company SCP Neusiedler in Ružomberok (currently Mondi Business Paper SCP). A group of employees was not satisfied with the results of the wage negotiations of the local trade union organization in the company. These employees established a petition committee, which demanded higher wages for the employees and also organized a protest action in the town. The management of the company accused five employees, who were at the forefront of the protesting, of doing harm to the reputation of the company by providing the media with incorrect information about the wages in the company. On the grounds of serious violation of the working discipline they were immediately dismissed. The dismissed workers brought a charge against the employer for unfair dismissal.
Later the unsatisfied employees established a new trade union organization in the company named Papier ZO NKOS. It is a member of the Independent Slovak Christian Trade Unions (Nezávislé kresťanské odbory Slovenska, NKOS) centre. However, the employer refused to reckon this trade union organization. According to the available information the new trade union organization which represents only workers in the company has been duly registered and has more than 300 members.
The resolving of the labour dispute at the court was complicated and it lasted approximately eight months. In this dispute the employees have had legal support from the Charta 77 Foundation Slovakia (Slovenská Nadácia Charty 77). NKOS representatives were also involved in the conflict resolution and an interest in its solution have shown also their colleagues in the neighbouring countries of Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, as well as from the UK. According to the representative of the Charta 77 Foundation Andrej Šajbík (article 'Prepustení z Mondi vyhrali s firmou súd' in daily newspaper SME 24 June 2005) in the course of the lawsuit the employer offered the workers an attractive extrajudicial settlement in exchange for the withdrawal of the accusation at the court. However, the employees didn’t accept this offer.
The employees have recently won their labour dispute with the company. The court did not accept the reasons for the dismissal of these employees and on the employer it imposed the obligation to appoint these employees back. At the same time it ordered the employer to pay these workers the wages, they lost after they had been dismissed. It is possible, that even though these workers have won their lawsuit over the unfair dismissal at the court their way back to the company will not be easy. The company can appeal against the judgement and according to the information available (daily newspaper SME 1 July 2005) the employer is said to have abolished their job positions.
This labour dispute didn’t end with the passing of the judgement over the dismissed workers, however. Apart form this labour dispute two more charges have been brought to the court in this case. One prosecution has been brought by the company on the dismissed employees because their incorrect statements about the wage level in the company should have done harm to its reputation. At the same time, the new local trade unions entered an action against the company management for its refusal to reckon the new trade union organisation in the company. Discussions of how to settle these disputes proceed between both sides. Though the conflict is not yet completely in its end the Mondi Business Paper SCP case showed an unusual example of employees´ initiative towards pluralism in company trade unions in Slovakia.
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