Slovakia: Latest working life developments Q3 2018

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The participation of the Association of Industry Unions in national-level tripartite social dialogue, the establishment of a trade union at Amazon’s logistic centre in Sered, and an increase in the subsistence minimum 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 2018.

Changes in tripartite social dialogue actors

The third quarter saw changes in social dialogue actors at national and company level. At national level, the Association of Industry Unions (APZ) became a regular member of the tripartite Economic and Social Council (HSR). Due to doubts over its representativeness, the APZ’s application was rejected at the HSR meeting on 22 May 2017 [1] but, over a year later, the dispute was finally settled by the arbitrator in favour of the APZ on 30 June 2018. The news was revealed at the HSR meeting on 20 August by Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of the Slovak Republic Jan Richter. [2] The participation of the APZ in tripartite social dialogue has also had an impact on the distribution of the seven seats available for employers in the HSR. Now, the Federation of Employer Associations (AZZZ SR) has three seats, the National Union of Employers (RUZ SR) has two seats and the Association of Cities and Municipalities (ZMOS) and the APZ have one seat each.

Modern Trade Unions expands its operation

Following the creation of a local trade union organisation at the manufacturing plant of British carmaker Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) in Nitra, Moderné Odbory (Modern Trade Unions) created a similar organisation at Amazon’s logistics centre in Sered in September 2018. Modern Trade Unions operates outside the Confederation of Trade Unions (KOZ SR).

Amazon’s logistic centre in Sered, which opened in autumn 2017, is one of the US company’s biggest reverse logistics centres and employs about 1,000 workers. New workers had little experience of worker representation and asked Modern Trade Unions JLR for assistance. According to the chair of Modern Trade Unions Amazon, Daniela Učňová, some employees were not satisfied with their working conditions and demanded higher wages, which led to the creation of the trade union. [3]

The main priorities of Modern Trade Unions Amazon include the reduction of excessive overtime work, the rescheduling of shifts and higher wages. According to Učňová, employees are currently working 10-hour shifts and the union is trying to get a deal for employees to work 8-hour shifts. The union also wants to reduce the amount of overtime work, which exceeds the limits of the Labour Code. It is assumed that the union will bargain for a collective agreement for 2019.

In August 2018, the company announced an increase in hourly wages from 10.8% to 19.6%. According to the general manager of Amazon Sered, Matt Greene, the company monitors the remuneration of employees in the second quarter of each year and provides information on the findings, including adopted remuneration changes, in the following quarter.

Increase in the subsistence minimum

Order No. 196/2018 from the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of the Slovak Republic, which adjusts the subsistence minimum, entered into effect on 1 July 2018. According to Act No. 601/2003 on the subsistence minimum, the acknowledged minimum income threshold for a physical person, below which they are considered to be in ‘material need’, increased by 2.6% to €205.07 per month (approximately 20% of the average gross wage). The measure is expected to have a positive impact on households at risk of poverty and social exclusion, and a wide range of state benefits. For instance, the following state benefits will increase: child allowance, parental allowance, child tax bonus, childcare allowance, cash allowances for disabled people, and subsidies to support young jobseekers gaining professional experience. The amount of the minimum retirement pension and the untouchable amount of income deduction in cases of retirement have also increased, while the tax burden is reduced by increasing the non-taxable amount of the tax base. Nevertheless, the KOZ SR has called for even more vigorous growth in the subsistence minimum to combat poverty and social exclusion.

Commentary

Changes in the social dialogue actors reflect the continuing diversification of employer and employee representation in Slovakia. [4] The increase in the subsistence minimum indicates the willingness of the government to utilise the current economic growth to improve social protection.

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