Slovakia: Latest working life developments – Q3 2016

Differences between social partners on a proposal to increase the minimum wage, demands by industrial trade unions for higher wages and strike action by teachers are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Slovakia in the third quarter of 2016.

Higher minimum wage for 2017

With the social partners unable to agree on the level of the minimum wage for 2017, the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family (MPSVR SR) proposed increasing the monthly minimum wage to €435.

In May 2016, the Confederation of Trade Unions of the Slovak Republic (KOZ SR) had proposed increasing the monthly minimum wage for 2017 by €37 to €442. However, the Federation of Employers’ Associations of the Slovak Republic (AZZZ SR) and the National Union of Employers of the Slovak Republic (RÚZ SR) rejected this. In an attempt to find a compromise with KOZ SR, AZZZ SR suggested a smaller increase, while RÚZ SR wanted the implementation of new mechanism to set the minimum wage.

The social partners did not find an acceptable compromise before the deadline of 15 July and submitted their proposals individually to MPSVR SR. At the meeting of the tripartite Economic and Social Council (HSR) on 15 August, MPSVR SR proposed increasing the monthly minimum wage to €435 but the discussions failed to reach agreement.

MPSVR SR submitted its proposal to the HSR meeting on 4 October for a government decree increasing the monthly and hourly minimum wage for 2017 to €435 and €2.54 respectively. The proposal was subsequently approved and will come into effect 1 January 2017.

Trade unions demand higher wages 

The Metal Trade Union Association (OZ KOVO) launched a campaign for higher wages in the industry, with its trade union members pointing out that employers in the mechanical and electrical engineering sectors reduced their costs at the expense of wages. The President of OZ KOVO said wages accounted for only 6% of employers’ total costs and a wage increase of 1% would result in the growth of only 0.1% in the total costs.

According to the Employment Institute (IZ), the ratio of wages to the total gross domestic product (GDP) of Slovakia is among the lowest in Europe and called on employers to pay workers better, not only in industry but also in other sectors. According to IZ, trade unions do not exert sufficient pressure on the government and employers for better employment conditions.

The Business Alliance of Slovakia (PAS) says it is not possible to conclude that employees are insufficiently paid just by looking at the share of wages in the total cost of the company. According to AZZZ SR, the wages of employees should not harm the competitiveness of companies.

Protest actions of teachers continue

The civic organisation, Initiative of the Slovak Teachers (ISU), continues to organise the protest activities of dissatisfied teachers.

Teachers began a wave of strikes in September 2016, despite the fact that, according to the multi-employer collective agreement, teachers’ salaries increased by 4% on 1 January 2016 and, through changes to the law, their rates increased by another 6% from 1 September 2016.

The first action took place on 13 September when 1,790 teachers (out of a total of 98,000) from 108 schools did not work for one lesson. According to ISU, the protest will continue each week on a different day and the number of withdrawn working hours will escalate to two, three or more lessons.

Apart from better pay (an increase in the salary tariffs by €140 in 2016 and by €90 in 2017), the protesting teachers are demanding amendments to Act No. 317/2009 on credits for educational and professional staff. They believe there is insufficient motivation to obtain credits due to the difficulties faced not adequately reflecting the financial reward.

This action by teachers is not supported by the trade unions because they had agreed with the government that the salary tariffs of teaching staff and professional specialists would increase by 25% in 2017 and by 10% each year afterwards.

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