Slovakia: Developments in working life – Q1 2016

Nurses handing in their notices in a protest over wages, teachers protesting about wages and changes in the education system, the Constitutional Court’s decision on the law on extending collective agreements, law reforms to protect workers’ health, and research on undeclared work are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Slovakia in the first quarter of 2016.

Nurses’ protest ends

Nurses continued to take action against the new salary system that came into force in January 2016. The protest, which had begun in November 2015, took the form of nurses in some hospitals giving notice. The health minister, the Prime Minister and parliament held talks with the nurses, but the dispute was not settled and, in February, around 600 workers left their jobs as they had threatened. In March, some nurses returned to work but not all were rehired because new staff had been taken on. The number of workers involved was very low and the protest did not achieve its aim.

Constitutional Court stops extension of collective agreements

On 16 March, the Constitutional Court decided that the way multi-employer collective agreements are extended does not comply with the constitution. Since 1 January 2014, extensions have been possible without the consent of the employer concerned. Trade unions used this option to ensure that about 100,000 employees were covered by extended agreements in 2014–2015. Employers have welcomed the decision of the Constitutional Court, but trade unions are disappointed. Parliament is expected to change the law in the next six months.

Teachers’ strike

Teachers in some primary and secondary schools came out on strike over wages on 25 January. The strike, however, was not organised by trade unions and was not carried out according to the law on collective bargaining, but was in compliance with the Slovak Constitution. Their demands included a €140 salary increase from 1 January 2016 with another €90 increase from January 2017. On 15 February, the teachers went on standby strike with some university lecturers joining the protest. Parliamentary elections were held in Slovakia on 5 March 2016 and the new government is expected to deal with the teachers’ demands.

Combating undeclared work

In January 2016, the results of a survey on issues combating undeclared work were published. Some 284 professionals participated in the survey, drawn from labour inspectorates, labour offices, the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, the Social Insurance Agency, trade licensing offices, tax offices, customs offices and city authorities. Based on results of the survey, Slovak experts recommend increasing the effectiveness of controls (29.6% of respondents), tightening sanctions and fines (13%), and improving conditions for labour inspectors´ activities (8.8%).

Better protection of employees' health

Two health regulations came into force on 1 March 2016. The first amends categories of health risks and the classification of jobs concerning work and working conditions, the second covers health protection in extreme temperatures. The legislation regulates the obligations of employers in creating suitable conditions for working in unusually hot and cold temperatures, making sure temperatures are measured more precisely in workplaces and that jobs are correctly categorised in relation to their associated health risk factors.

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