European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Industrial relations in Slovakia - background summary

  • On average trade union membership in Slovakia is around 13.3% of the workforce and appears to be declining.
  • There are an estimated 325,000 trade union members in Slovakia (in 2013).
  • The main trade union confederation in Slovakia is the KOZ SR (Confederation of Trade Unions of the Slovak Republic), the Slovak successor of the Czechoslovak union confederation, CSKOS, which was founded in March 1990 after the “Velvet Revolution” of 1989. According to the latest figures published by the country’s statistical office it had 260,000 members in 2013. KOZ SR is made up of 28 separate unions, of which the most important is the metalworkers’ union, OZ KOVO, with 69,518 members in 2011.
  • The other confederations are NKOS (Christian Trade Union of Slovakia), with less than 10,000 members, the VSOZ (General Free Trade Union Association) and the KUK, which organises cultural workers.
  • Collective bargaining in Slovakia predominantly takes place at sectoral level between sectoral trade unions and employer organisations. Only a limited number of sectors have agreements that are generally applicable, mainly in the key sectors of the Slovakian economy such as automotive suppliers and car makers, steel industry, electronics, chemicals, construction and transports. Currently, the collective bargaining coverage is estimated at 24.9% and is declining.
  • The issue of the extension of sectoral level agreements has been politically controversial. Since a recent ruling of the Slovak Constitutional Court in the early 2016, it is no more possible to extend a sectoral agreement without the consent of the employer. Extension has to be applied for by both parties.
  • A tripartite committee, Economic and Social Council (HSR) exists at the national level, with representatives of employers’ organisations, trade unions and government. The committee can be considered as an advisory body to the government, because it can adopt non legally binding recommendations. The committee is an important body to discuss employment issues, labour law or minimum wage.
  • On company level, the two parties are the employer and the workplace union group. If there are several trade unions in the company and they are negotiating for the whole workforce, they have to agree completely, unless some other arrangements have been made. If they cannot agree, the employer has the right to negotiate with the union that has the largest number of members at the workplace, or with a group of unions, if they have more members together than the union with the highest number of members. The finally signed collective agreement covers the whole workforce.
  • The key issue for negotiations, particularly at company level is pay. However, the negotiations also cover other issues such as working conditions, health and safety and trade union rights and facilities.
  • Until 2002 local trade union bodies were the only organisations legally entitled to represent employees at the workplace. Works councils were introduced in 2002 only in companies without trade union representatives and expanded in 2003 to all workplaces including those with unions. Works councils are responsible for information and consultation, but they are not allowed to conduct collective bargaining.
  • According to the European Company Survey 2013, only 11% of workplaces have a local trade union, but they cover 40% of the employees, and 14% companies have a works council (covering 16% of the employees) (ECS 2013).
  • By law, employee representatives have a right to sit on the supervisory board of private sector companies. They are entitled to one-third of the seats in companies with more than 50 employees, provided some other conditions are met, and to half of the seats in state-owned companies.
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