Trade unions and government unite efforts to fight economic crisis

Recently, the Slovak government adopted a package of anti-crisis measures. In addition, the government and the trade unions adopted a cooperation memorandum to face the impact of the economic crisis in Slovakia. While the government will seek to retain employment as well as not weakening the current protection of employees by amendments in labour legislation, trade unions intend to demand wage increases only in relation to the actual level of labour productivity.

Government measures against economic crisis

Since late 2008, the Slovak government has intensified its activities with the aim of alleviating the consequences of the financial and economic crisis on the Slovak economy and citizens. The parliament approved a package of measures to retain the production ability of the Slovak economy, secure employment and stimulate customer demand and avoid an excessive public deficit. Through consultation in the national tripartite Economic and Social Council (Hospodárska a sociálna rada SR, HSR SR), the social partners were involved in the development of the anti-crisis measures.

As part of these measures, the Economic Crisis Council was established, whose members are representatives of the government, the National Bank of Slovakia (Národná banka Slovenska), trade unions, employer organisations, self-government bodies and commercial banks. The Council shall propose to the government ways of combating the economic crisis. Measures accepted so far aim to, for example, support business development, mainly in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and the creation of new jobs, as well as to support employment through training and counselling. Some of the measures also concern fiscal and tax policy, energy, innovation and research, export and utilisation of European funds.

Agreement reached with trade unions

Consultations between the government and the Confederation of Trade Unions (Konfederácia odborových zväzov Slovenskej republiky, KOZ SR) led to the conclusion of the Memorandum on cooperation in solving the impact of the financial and economic crises on Slovak society. The memorandum outlines joint efforts of the government and trade unions to adopt and implement measures aiming to alleviate the impact of the financial and economic crises on citizens, employers and businesses in the Slovak Republic.

In the memorandum, the Slovak government promises to:

  • fulfil its Programme Declaration, mainly in areas which have an impact on employment, and to carry out only such steps that will not threaten the country’s societal balance. It will adopt measures supporting and retaining social peace;
  • respect and deal with proposals and solutions of KOZ SR as its social partner, and to implement social dialogue between individual ministries and the respective trade unions during this legislative term;
  • adopt and support as much as possible measures which aim to retain and even increase employment;
  • cooperate with KOZ SR in retaining and guaranteeing the current status and legal protection of employees, and not to amend labour legislation, such as the Labour Code, at the expense of employees’ employment conditions;
  • secure through efficient and suitable legislation the conditions for retaining and creating new jobs. Before draft legislation is submitted, the government will analyse the situation and legislation applied in the EU; as a result, an impact analysis will be made in active cooperation with KOZ SR representatives;
  • discuss and inform KOZ SR about any trends that could have a negative impact on the country’s employment level and employees;
  • prevent, by any available means, a mismanagement of the crisis, which could lead to an unjustified decline in the legal, economic and social stability of employees.

On the other hand, the trade union confederation KOZ SR guaranteed to:

  • bargain for an increase in real wages and salaries only by taking into account the level of labour productivity;
  • rely on social dialogue at all levels of management as a decisive tool for retaining social peace during the economic crisis;
  • provide objective information about government measures within its organisational structures;
  • provide feedback to the government about the application of adopted measures in enterprises.

Commentary

According to information available, the memorandum can also provide a suitable basis for reaching consensus with employers in combating the impact of the global economic crisis. The government would certainly welcome joint actions with the social partners to fight the impact of the global economic crisis in Slovakia. A wider agreement, such as a national Social Pact, concluded with the trade unions and employers, might assist in this regard. In the previous year, the government concluded a similar joint agreement with the social partners (SK0805029I) regarding measures for the smooth implementation of the euro in Slovakia since 1 January 2009. Information currently available confirms that the adoption of the euro in Slovakia was well managed.

Ludovít Cziria, Institute for Labour and Family Research

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