Social partners reach consensus on euro implementation

Slovakia looks forward to entering the euro zone from 1 January 2009. The government has signed the declaration on consensus regarding euro implementation with representatives of employers, trade unions and municipalities. Besides cooperating on information campaigns and price control, trade unions and employers have agreed to respect the link between wage increases and labour productivity. However, trade unions highlight that this will not imply an indirect wage freeze.

On 7 May 2008, after approving Slovakia’s euro bid, the European Commission recommended that the euro be implemented in the country from 1 January 2009. This will make Slovakia the sixteenth nation to adopt the euro. As a result, the Slovak government has been discussing entering the euro zone with representatives of the social partners and the various municipalities throughout the country. These discussions resulted in the conclusion of a declaration on consensus regarding the implementation of the euro in Slovakia. The declaration was signed in January 2008 by Slovakia’s Prime Minister, Róbert Fico, along with the President of the National Union of Employers (Republiková únia zamestnávateľov Slovenskej republiky, RUZ SR), Marián Jusko, the President of the Federation of Employers Association (Asociácia zamestnávateľských zväzov a združení Slovenskej republiky, AZZZ SR), Tomáš Malatinský, the President of the Slovakian Confederation of Trade Unions (Konfederácia odborových zväzov Slovenskej republiky, KOZ SR), Miroslav Gazdík, as well as the Chair of the Association of Municipalities (Združenie miest a obcí Slovenska, ZMOS), Miloslav Hetteš.

The declaration aims to facilitate a smooth and successful adoption of the euro in Slovakia, improve awareness of the euro and related issues among citizens and protect against potential negative impacts of the new currency’s implementation.

Content of declaration

Individual parties have agreed to certain responsibilities as part of the declaration to assist the successful implementation of the euro in Slovakia.

The government has committed itself to implementing 10 concrete tasks related to the implementation of the euro, such as:

  • introducing the Government Convergence Programme;
  • ensuring stable and sustainable economic growth and social development after euro implementation;
  • timely preparation of relevant legislation and administration;
  • monitoring of prices and combating unreasonable increases;
  • providing quality information on the euro to the general public and private sector.

AZZZ SR, RUZ SR, KOZ SR and ZMOS have agreed to:

  • cooperate with the government on the information campaign relating to the implementation of the euro;
  • use their own structures and information channels to provide impartial ‘pros and cons’ concerning Slovakia’s membership of the euro zone;
  • carry out activities which aim to strengthen the control and prevention of unreasonable price increases following the adoption of the euro.

KOZ SR, RUZ SR and AZZZ SR have agreed that, during wage bargaining, the social partners would respect the link between wage increases and labour productivity.

The social partners consider the declaration as an open document. They thus invite any professional, non-governmental organisation (NGO) or other representatives of Slovak civil society, who are interested in and can assist through their activities or expertise, to take part in a consensual implementation of the euro in the country. The social partners also expressed that they are ready to discuss any issues or queries connected with the adoption of the euro.

Commentary

The trade union representatives do not consider the declaration as a tool for introducing a wage freeze or for slowing down wage increases in Slovakia. In his speech at the official signature of the declaration, the President of KOZ SR, Mr Gazdík, stated that the trade unions were aware of the importance of the Maastricht criteria for joining the euro zone and the resulting restrictions in terms of public expenditure, including public sector wage increases. The trade unions also understood that any wage increase should reflect the actual level of labour productivity. However, the trade unions’ support for the declaration does not imply any indirect wage freeze. Moreover, according to Mr Gazdík, it does not mean that the trade unions will refrain from consistently and firmly fighting for legitimate wage demands during collective bargaining rounds.

Ludovít Cziria, Institute for Labour and Family Research

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