European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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13 July 2018

Slovakia: reform of labour market policy simplifies entrance of third country workers

Since May of 2018, Slovakia has simplified the conditions for employing people from outside the European Union. Trade unions have criticised provisions for relaxing the regulations for third country workers, in the absence of guarantees to respect decent working conditions and improve the employability of the existing workforce.

As of May 2018, the government has changed the rules of recruitment of foreign labour and the conditions for employing people from outside the European Union. The government argues that the current labour shortage exerts upward pressure on nominal wages and prices. And, although the number of Slovak workers working abroad is falling and labour market participation increasing, the expectation is that foreign workers will continue to be needed to fill vacancies.

The labour shortage issue is to be addressed with a list of job categories where applicants are in short supply which could benefit from a shorter recruitment process of foreign labour, which will be reduced from six to three months. However, this only applies to selected occupations where labour offices record a lack of qualified labour and in districts with an unemployment rate lower than 5%. The list of shortage occupations is determined at tripartite level. The current labour shortage impacts all sectors but is particularly acute in the traditional manufacturing sectors, including the professions related to the traditional automotive, mechanical and electrical engineering industries

Slovakian trade unions issued warnings at a seminar on 27 April 2018 about cases of unfair labour recruitment and non-respect of labour standards. The practices in question include situations of artificial arrangements circumventing and bypassing laws and regulations, and abuses of workers by circulating and employing them between their subsidiaries registered in Hungary, Poland, Serbia and other countries. Such companies pop up and disappear again after two or three years. The trade unions are not opposed to employing foreigners from outside the EU, but these workers should be employed under the same rules as Slovak workers. At the same time, it is necessary to better use the potential of domestic labour force. These preconditions include: increasing the quality of the education system; more investment in day nurseries and kindergartens; more use of part-time jobs; and also retraining of long-term unemployed people. Observers have stated in recent years that the labour shortages are ‘fertile ground’ for the strengthening of the existing trade unions. 

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