European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Industrial relations in Czechia: background summary

  • Trade unions have about 500,000 members. They lost many members over the past 25 years: in 1994 the trade union density was 52% (i.e. 2,240,000 members), in 1999 30%, in 2005 almost 20% and in 2013 the figure was only 12.7% (see OECD.Stat). Moreover, a large number of trade union members are retirees (see e.g. Hála, Kroupa and Veverková 2008).
  • One of the reasons for the low attractiveness of trade unions after the Velvet Revolution was their perception as successors of the former communist Revolutionary Trade Union Movement (ROH), in which the participation was quasi-obligatory. In addition, the traditional trade union structures were destroyed after 1989 due to the rapid decline in employment in key sectors and the disintegration of large establishments. In newly established small and medium-sized enterprises trade unions have no tradition and are often not set up. Trade unions also fail to recruit new members, which has contributed to the ageing membership. Some influence might be further attributed to the apparent employer hostility (cf. Myant 2010; ČMKOS; Holanová 2015).
  • By far the largest trade union confederation is the Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions (ČMKOS), which reports 29 affiliated trade union federations and about 330,000 members (ČMKOS 2015; Holanová 2015). Its density in terms of active employees is about 8.2%.
  • The Association of Autonomous Trade Unions of the Czech Republic (ASO ČR) is the second most important trade union confederation. At present it associates 13 member trade unions and about 80,000 members (less than 2% of employees) (cf. Holanová 2015).
  • There are several other smaller trade union confederations of which the Confederation of Arts and Culture (KUK) with 13 member trade unions and about 32,000 members is the best-known (Eurofound).
  • Trade unions are mostly organized on an industry basis.
  • Collective bargaining takes place mainly at company level. ČMKOS members concluded at least 3,910 company-level collective agreements in 2015 (ČMKOS 2015).
  • Only few sectors are covered by sectoral-level collective agreements (under ČMKOS there were 16 industry-level collective agreements concluded in 2015) and their function is rather only formal. They serve as a framework to determine the minimum standards for collective bargaining at company-level but these standards mostly do not significantly differ from the standards guaranteed by the legislation. In 2014 the sectoral-level collective agreements concluded by ČMKOS covered (after extension) approximately 13.7% of employees (ČMKOS 2015).
  • Since 2005 sectoral-level collective agreements may be extended to other employers with 20 and more employees in the same industry, but this legal provision is used only in few sectors. The largest trade union and the employers’ association of the relevant industry must jointly ask for the extension of a collective agreement (ETUI).
  • Employers in the public sector cannot form employers’ associations. Thus, the potential for sectoral-level collective bargaining is quite limited in the public sector (ETUI).
  • Both higher-level and company-level collective agreements are legally binding in the Czech Republic (see Eurofound).
  • At the national level there is a consultative tripartite body, the Council of Economic and Social Agreement (RHSD), which provides a platform for regular meetings of social partners’ representatives and the government. RHSD does not engage in collective bargaining but might – depending on the approach of the government to the social dialogue – influence the governmental policy. The influence is generally considerable with left-leaning governments, whereas its role under right-leaning governments is rather formal.
  • Trade unions are the main employee representatives. They are the only employee representative bodies that have the right to be involved in collective bargaining and tripartite negotiations and with whom a number of issues must be agreed. There may be several trade union organisations within a company.
  • Works councils were introduced into the Czech system in 2001. However, they have fewer rights than trade unions. They do not have competence for legal acts, such as collective bargaining and cannot be involved in collective bargaining (cf. ETUI; Eurofound). Therefore, works councils are rather rare, although, since 2008, they can exist parallel to trade unions in a company.
  • According to the European Company Survey trade unions operated in 10.7% of companies covering 34.1% of employees in 2013. Works councils were active in 2.6% of establishments and covered 5.4% of employees. The remaining 86.7% of companies and 60.5% of employees were not covered by any workplace representation.
  • The third form of employee representation is provided through elected safety at work and health protection stewards but also this form of representation is not often found (ETUI).
  • Workers in the army are excluded from the right to collective bargaining (see Eurofound).
  • Pay is the main topic of collective bargaining, followed by social benefits and working time issues.
  • Company-level collective agreements apply to all employees of the given company (ČMKOS). Coverage by such agreements is estimated at about 40% (ETUI).
  • The minimum pay and supplementary charges are set by law. However, collective agreements might include higher limits as well as pay increases (cf. Šubrt 2007). Wage development was agreed in 61.2% of company-level collective agreements in 2015 (Information on Working Conditions negotiated in collective agreements). In the public sector the salary bargaining is limited due to existing statutory wage tariffs. Collective agreements in the public sector can regulate only bonuses and supplementary charges.
  • Until 2013 employees had a third of the seats in supervisory boards of joint-stock companies with 50 and more employees. However, this provision has been cancelled as of 1 January 2014. Employee representation has been maintained in the supervisory boards of state-owned companies (ETUI).
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