European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Strikes in Slovakia: background summary

The right to strike is guaranteed by the Slovak Constitution, the Labour Code and international agreements as one of the fundamental citizens’ right. However, the incidence of strikes is very low in Slovakia due to the missing tradition of industrial action. There have been no changes concerning the right to strike over the past ten years.

  • Besides the general right to strike in the case of discrepancy between employee and employer interests there are more specific strike rules provided by Act No. 2/1991 Coll., on collective bargaining, which stipulates that a strike is legal if it concerns conflicts over the conclusion of a collective agreement and only if other options for settling the industrial conflict have failed. Several professions (judges, members of armed forces, firefighters, etc.) are excluded from the right to strike.
  • Strikes that do not concern the conclusion of a collective agreement are not specifically regulated by law. Although such strikes are not defined as legal by the Act on collective bargaining, they are mostly not considered as illegal due to the guarantees in the Constitution. Thus, political strikes are relatively popular among trade unionists. However, the missing regulations result in legal uncertainty and frequent legal disputes concerning the legitimacy of strikes (Zachar 2012).
  • If employees participate in a strike that is considered to be illegal, this measure is considered as a breach of the work discipline and the organizing trade unions are responsible for the losses incurred by the strike.
  • For a strike to be legal, trade unions must organize a secret ballot, in which more than 50% of employees of the relevant establishment(s) have to participate and they have to receive the support of the majority of the voting employees.
  • The strike has to be announced by trade unions in writing at least three working days before its beginning. The announcement must include information on the schedule of the strike, its reasons and goals, and a list of trade unionists who represent its participants (see Act No. 2/1991 Coll., on collective bargaining).
  • The stoppage of work is the most common form of industrial action in Slovakia; other forms of strikes are rare.
  • The fight for wage increases and employee benefits are the most frequent causes for strikes, followed by the fight against redundancies, the ambition to improve working conditions, and protests against personal changes in the management. Some strikes aim at more general issues such as protests against the government’s reforms.
  • Slovakia belongs to the EU countries with the lowest incidence of strike activity, and public support for strikes has been decreasing over the past 25 years. There is only about one strike every year with less than four hours lost on average but there are many years with no significant strikes at all (cf. Zachar 2012).
  • Strikes are most common in the public sector, in particular in education, health care and transportation.
  • An outstanding strike was organized starting from 25 January 2016 by the Slovak Teachers’ Initiative (Iniciatíva slovenských učiteľov). More than 14,500 teachers from more than 950 schools participated in the strike that lasted for six weeks, which represents the longest and one of the largest strikes in Slovak history. The organizers of the strike substantiated the strike by long-term disregard for the requests of teachers and their trade unions for appropriate funding, new conception of the educational system and the improvement of the prestige of the profession. Further protests and strikes are planned if the government does not satisfy teachers’ requests.
  • Since the introduction of basic rules for strikes in the beginning of the 1990s the strike-related legislation has been very stable and there have not been significant changes to the right to strike and the related conditions.
  • In 2012 the government presented a bill, aiming at limiting the right case of medical staff to strike in reaction to physicians’ protests in 2011. However, the bill was not approved due to the fall of the government and subsequent early elections.
  • One of the main issues is the legal subjectivity of different employee representatives because only trade unions are entitled to declare and to coordinate strikes, whereas works councils and other employee representatives do not have such rights, although their competencies have increased over the past few years (Zachar 2012).