Slovakia: EIRO CAR on The effect of the Information and Consultation Directive on Industrial Relations in the EU Member States five years after its transposition

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Participation at work,
  • Labour and social regulation,
  • Industrial relations,
  • Published on: 18 January 2011



About
Country:
Slovakia
Author:
Ludovit Cziria
Institution:

Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

The Directive was implemented in the Labour Code during Slovakia's EU accession talks in 2002-3. Since April 2002, Works councils were permitted in establishments with 5- 20 employees where no trade union organisation operated. Before the implementation trade unions were the only I&C body in enterprises. Nevertheless, the share of companies with trade unions has been decreasing from about 90% in 1990 to 40-45% in 2009. Since May 2003 Works councils were allowed in any establishment with 5-50 employees regardless of trade unions presence. The share of Works councils increased from about 8% in 2002 to 20% in 2009.

Question 1: Trends in the incidence of undertaking- and/or establishment-level information and consultation bodies

(a) Using official statistics where possible, please provide annual data for the years 2005-2009 (inclusive) on the number and proportion (%) of undertakings and/or establishments which have an information and consultation (I&C) body or equivalent.

Since 2002, besides trade unions also Works councils or employee trustees are statutory I&C bodies. In few cases both are present in establishments/companies. The survey Informačný systém o pracovných podmienkach – ISPP (Information System on Working Conditions), which is annually published by Trexima Ltd., provides some information about this. According to the survey, the share of companies with I&C bodies slightly decreased during the last five years. The proportion of establishments in which trade unions operated decreased during the last 10-15 years. It was caused by an overall decrease of trade union presence, mainly in private enterprises. At the same time, the number of Works councils or employee trustees increased. Table 1 shows the proportion of I&C bodies in surveyed companies. The share of companies where European works councils operates is around 1%.

Table 1 Share of I&C bodies in surveyed companies

Indicator

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

Number of companies in survey

2,049

2,544

3,024

3,502

3,647

Number of employees employed in them

(their share in the economy)

520,407

(24%)

555,733

(24%)

651,996

(28%)

750,958

(31%)

662,615

(28%)

Share of companies with only trade unions

57%

48%

48%

43%

42%

Share of companies with only Works councils/employee trustees

13.6%

18.9%

16.4%

19.2%

23.3%

Share of companies with statutory I&C body

70.6%

66.9%

64.4%

62.2%

65.3%

Source: ISPP, Trexima Ltd. Bratislava

(b) Where possible, please provide data to show trends in the uptake of I&C bodies by:

(i) size of undertakings/establishments in terms of employment levels (i.e. under 50 employees, 50-99 employees, 100-199 employees; 200-499 employees, 500 or more employees or other appropriate size bands used in national statistics)

I&C bodies are usually operating in bigger and medium size undertakings. For instance, trade unions are usually present in bigger companies, mainly with more than 200 employees. According to the ISPP 2005, more than 80% of Works councils/employee trustees were established in companies with 10-249 employees.

(ii) sector (broadly defined, i.e. industry/manufacturing, private services, public services).

No official information is available by sectors. In general I&C bodies, mainly trade unions, are present to a higher share in public than in private companies, and in the industry/manufacturing sector than in private services.

(c) Please provide information on the extent of I&C arrangements in:

(i) smaller undertakings (those with fewer than 50 employees)

In undertakings with 5-49 employees an Employee trustee can be elected.

(ii) public administration.

Trade unions are usually present in public administration .

(d) What factors explain any increase/decrease in the incidence of I&C bodies (e.g. economic climate, legislative change, other)?

The extent of I&C bodies´ incidence in enterprises was mainly impacted by two factors:

  • long-term decrease of trade union membership (the main I&C body) in private companies,
  • step-by-step increase of presence of Works councils/employee trustees in private companies. From April 2002, they were allowed in enterprises where no trade union organisation was present, and since May 2003 they were allowed in any establishment.

Question 2: Procedures for establishing I&C bodies

(a) What are the procedures for establishing I&C bodies in your country? For example, are I&C bodies mandatory (i.e. employers are obliged by law to establish them), or is their establishment dependent on employees/trade unions triggering statutory procedures? In the latter case, who can initiate the procedure? Is there a specified level of employee support required?

The establishment of I&C bodies (trade unions and Works councils) in enterprises is regulated by the Labour Code. According to the law, these bodies can be established in any organisation upon the request of employees. If employees want to establish an I&C body, employers should accept them at their premises.

(b) Please supply any available data on the extent to which I&C bodies have been:

(i) requested by employees

There are no data available about the extent of this case. However, this is the standard/usual case for the establishment of I&C bodies.

(ii) requested by trade unions

Not applicable - trade union themselves are the prevailing form of I&C body.

(iii) initiated unilaterally by employers.

No data are available about this. According to the information from trade unions, some employers prefer Works councils to trade unions and make attempts to encourage employees to establish them instead of trade unions.

(c) Have the national government and/or the social partners in your country actively promoted the establishment of I&C bodies? If so, how have they done this?

The Government promoted the establishment of I&C bodies- also in enterprises without trade unions - through amendments to the Labour Code. The Act No. 311/2001 on the new Labour Code, which entered into effect in April 2002, allowed the establishment of Works councils in establishments with at least 20 employees. Since May 2003, amendments to the Labour Code allow to establish Works councils in companies with more than 50 employees and employee trustees in companies with 5-49 employees, regardless of trade unions presence at the establishment.

(d) What explains the absence of I&C bodies in some undertakings/establishments in which I&C bodies are supposedly mandatory or the statutory right to trigger their introduction applies?

Trade unions and Works councils are established on request of employees. Their absence can result from the lack of willingness of employees to establish them. This is often the case in small and micro establishments with less than 10 and/or up to 50 employees. This "unwillingness" of employees might also reflect the wish of some employers not to have trade unions at their premises.

Question 3: Constitutional provisions

(a) Are the structure, rights and functioning of I&C bodies in your country determined by:

(i) statutory requirements that apply to all establishments/undertakings

The structure, rights and functioning of I&C bodies are specified by the Labour Code.

(ii) organisation-specific agreements/arrangements that may differ from the statutory provisions, providing the scope for organisations to vary the design of the I&C body and the processes of information provision and consultation

I&C related provisions of the Labour Code can be improved by agreement between trade unions and the company management as specified in collective agreements. In case of Works councils/employee trustees, their operation can be specified in detail in a special agreement concluded with the company management.

(iii) a mixture of the two.

In some cases.

(b) To what extent can and do organisation-specific agreements/arrangements differ from national statutory requirements on I&C? What motivates the parties to introduce such agreements/arrangements? Please summarise any available data on the provisions of organisation-specific agreements/arrangements.

They can differ only in positive terms, i.e. more rights of I&C bodies to information and consultation can be agreed in organisation with specific agreements in place. For instance, company management will inform/consult I&C bodies about more issues than the Labour Code requires in the statutory list of issues.

(c) Are the terms of organisation-specific agreements/arrangements enforceable? What procedures – e.g. complaint to external administrative or judicial authorities (please specify which) – are available for this purpose?

When such organisation-specific agreements are specified in collective agreements they are enforceable - as any other issue agreed to in collective agreement. In case of non-fulfilment of any issue agreed in collective agreements, trade unions can apply for conciliation and arbitration procedures. If these procedures fail, options for strike or lock-out are available. In some cases respective courts can deal with the collective dispute on request.

Question 4: The main subjects for I&C

(a) What types of information are regularly provided by senior management to I&C bodies? Please give examples.

Following types of information are usually provided to employee representatives by senior management:

  • the economic and financial situation of the enterprise and its presumed development,
  • the state, structure and expected development of employment,
  • the default of the company.

(b) What issues are typically the subject of consultation between management and employee representatives? Please give examples.

Following issues are subject of information and consultations between employee representatives and management:

  • immediate termination of employment contract,
  • scheduling of working time, including flexible working time,
  • planned measures when employment is threatened,
  • changes in work standards,
  • conditions of overtime and night work,
  • organisational changes, mergers, incorporations and restriction in the activities of the employer,
  • decisions, which can lead to basic changes in work organisation,
  • fundamental issues of the company social policy, measures for the improvement of occupational safety and health at work,
  • specific measures aimed at the avoidance of injuries and occupational diseases and for the health protection of employees.

(c) What issues are typically raised by employee representatives themselves? Please give examples.

They are mainly issues related to employment security, wages level, organisational changes and redundancies.

(d) Since the onset of the recession, to what extent have I&C bodies been a vehicle for dialogue and consultation over management decisions concerning restructuring and recession-related developments? Please provide a general overview with evidence and examples.

During the economic recession, mainly issues related to redundancies and dismissals were subject of information and consultations with employee representatives. Particularly, following issues were consulted:

  • the reasons for the planned redundancies,
  • the number and types of workers to be made redundant,
  • the number and types of workers normally employed,
  • the period over which the planned redundancies take place,
  • the criteria proposed for the selection of the workers to be made redundant,
  • possible ways of avoiding, or minimising redundancies,
  • the level of redundancy payments to dismissed employees.

The employer must consult on measures aimed at the avoidance or reduction of collective dismissals. Particularly, the employer should consult on the possibility of employing the employees concerned by redundancy at other workplaces. The employer is also to consult the measures for mitigation of negative impacts of collective dismissals on employees.

Question 5: The nature and extent of the I&C process

(a) How often do I&C bodies typically meet with management? Is it common practice for special meetings of the I&C body to be called to consider urgent or important matters? If so, on what issues?

The frequency of information and consultations is not specified by labour legislation. It is, however, usually specified in collective agreements or can be regulated on an ad-hoc basis depending on urgency and/or importance of individual matters in enterprises. For instance, a common issue is organisational change, which impacts on a significant number of employees.

(b) How does consultation take place? For example, is information on proposed changes provided by management so that employee representatives can prepare a considered view? Do managers provide a reasoned response to employee representatives’ opinions? Examples of good and poor practice would be helpful.

Employers should inform employee representatives in advance about statutory issues specified by the Labour Code. For instance, about significant organisational changes and internal restructuring of enterprises. Consultations explicitly concern:

  • any mass dismissal,
  • the transfer of employees to another employer,
  • the announcement of bankruptcy or court decision about internal restructuring.
  • representatives can present their objections towards the planned redundancies to the Headquarter of Employment, Social Affairs and Family (ÚPSVAR).

The legislation stipulates neither a deadline for the duration of consultations, nor any exceptions to the rules. However, the legislation stipulates that the employer concerned is obliged to provide all the necessary data to the employee representatives for the consultations. Though a minimum period of consultation is not defined trade unions must respond to employers´ information about restructuring within 10 days of notification. In the case of mass dismissal, employers should inform the ÚPSVAR about the result of the consultations with employee representatives about planned dismissals, including attempts which management made in order to alleviate the impact of redundancies on the workers. This information has to be submitted to the ÚPSVAR at least 30 days before dismissals actually take place.

(c) Is information usually provided on a confidential basis to the I&C body before management decisions are taken and announced? Are there examples of I&C not taking place due to confidentiality considerations?

Usual statutory issues, which are subject of information and consultation, are specified by the Labour Code. Rules for the application of confidentiality principle can be specified in collective agreements. It depends on individual issues and on the respective company management, who can require that employee representatives treat some information as confidential.

(d) Please outline what guarantees and protections employee representatives usually have, e.g. time off work, training, material and financial resources, facilities, protection against dismissal/ discrimination, access to workers.

To be able to perform their work effectively employee representatives are entitled to:

  • minimum time-off work,
  • necessary training,
  • material resources and facilities,
  • access to workers and workplaces.

Labour legislation also protects employee representatives against discrimination and against their dismissal for specified time period, e.g. during one year in service.

(e) Can employee representatives seek external advice on how to handle difficult topics for consultation (e.g. from trade unions, external consultants)? In the case of the latter, who pays?

Sectoral trade unions usually provide external support/advice, including legal counsel, to representatives of local trade unions in establishments on how to handle difficult consultation issues. This advice is usually provided free of charge.

Question 6: Practical outcomes of consultation

(a) What evidence is there, if any, of the consultation process resulting in the modification of management decisions and/or the process or timetable for their implementation? Please give an overview of the impact of consultation with examples.

Legislation does not specify the circumstances under which employers are required to modify their plans and decisions regarding organisational changes and redundancies as a result of the information and consultations with employee representatives. Of course, employers try to accept the view of employee representatives to alleviate social impacts of unavoidable management decisions, if it is possible.

(b) How many complaints per year concerning the operation of I&C procedures (e.g. employers not consulting in circumstances where consultation is obligatory) have been lodged with administrative or judicial authorities since 2005? Who were the claimants and what were the key issues? What proportion of these applications were upheld? What sanctions were imposed?

I&C procedures are regulated by the Labour Code and by collective agreements. According to the Annual Statistics of the Ministry of Justice (MS SR), labour disputes related to the breach of employees´ right to information and consultation did not emerge among the disputed issues, which were dealt with by civil courts in Slovakia. The breach of any provision of the law may be subject to penalties. A penalty can be imposed, depending on the nature, extent and significance of the breach, up to the amount of 33,194 euro. According to the National Labour Inspectorate (NIP), the number of complaints concerning the operation of I&C procedures is, however, not significant.

Question 7: Relationship between I&C bodies and other forms of employee voice

(a) Can, and if so do, trade unions play a part in the establishment of I&C bodies and in their operation? Do external trade union officers often sit on I&C bodies? How common is it for I&C bodies to include both union and non-union employee representatives?

Trade unions are the most common employee representative/I&C body in companies. Works council members or employee trustees can also include unionised employees, if they are present in the establishment. However, according to the available information, the share of establishments where both trade unions as well as works councils operate is rather low – about 1-2%.

(b) Is there any overlap between the remit of I&C bodies and trade union-based collective bargaining? If so, how are such issues resolved?

When trade union organisation and Works council/employee trustee operate in the same establishment, the Labour Code specifies that trade unions have the right to collective bargaining, co-decision, control activities and information. Works council/employee trustee have the right to information and consultations.

(c) Is the consultation required by the collective redundancies/transfer of undertakings Directives carried out via I&C bodies, trade unions or other employee representatives?

Yes, it obligatory. (See point 5 b) above)

(d) Is the use of direct forms of employee involvement by management through such things as team briefings seen as complementary to or in competition with the I&C body?

Such forms are not regulated by the labour legislation. Nevertheless, if they emerge, they are seen only as complementary forms to the statutory I&C procedures applied to trade unions and Works councils/employee trustees.

Question 8: Views of the social partners

(a) What are the attitudes of the main employer and trade union organisations in your country towards (i) the value or necessity of I&C bodies and (ii) the operation of I&C bodies in practice, especially in a recession?

(i) Usually, employer as well as trade union organisations consider I&C bodies as useful communication tool bridging relationships between employees and the company management – it is more suitable for the company management to communicate with the I&C body than with the whole staff.

(ii) The importance of effective communication between employees and management might increase during the economic recession. The Slovak experiences confirm this trend. For instance, company managements communicated effectively hundreds of internal restructurings with employee representatives, mainly trade unions in advance. No one of these cases ended with radical social actions like strikes organised by trade unions or lock-outs implemented by employers in 2009.

(b) Have the social partners, jointly or separately, conducted any review of the operation of the national regulatory framework governing I&C? What is their assessment of its effectiveness? Is there any pressure from the social partners for reform?

No information is available about such reviews and assessments on the effectiveness of I&C bodies.

Commentary by national correspondents

The claiming for employees´ right to information and consultation has been a long standing and significant element of industrial relations in Slovakia. The issue was regulated by the Labour Code even before the EU Directive was implemented. However, trade unions were the only statutory I&C body at that time. After the adoption of the Directive into the Labour Code, the issue was discussed by trade unions and employers several times and was a matter of dispute between social partners and the government, as well. The scope of rights to information and consultations is closely linked to the position and power of trade unions in companies. Employers usually welcome rather a short than a long list of issues, which they need to consult with trade unions - which mainly represent employees. Depending on the political orientation of the government, these disputes resulted in amendments to the new Labour Code. For instance, the recent government coalition led by SMER – Social Democracy Party amended the Labour Code in 2007 in order to increase the protection of employees, including their rights to consultations, which were reduced by the previous government coalition led by more right wing SDKÚ party through amendments to the labour Code in 2003.

Ludovit Cziria, Institute for Labour and Family Research.

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