This content is from: Local Insights

Slovak Republic: Unions’ impact on employers

The existing labour shortage is providing fertile ground for the establishment of new unions, or the strengthening of the position of existing ones, and many employers find themselves facing this prospect. The establishment of a trade union is a relatively simple process which, when combined with the prevailing situation in the job market, has contributed to the fact that trade unions are cropping up around Slovakia often only as a form of bullying employers. Increasingly we are encountering cases where the persons who establish these unions do not even actually work for the particular employer where the union is being formed. These people select companies based mainly on their economic performance and then send out mass mailings to employers informing them that a union has been established in their workplace, often stating unreasonable and even absurd demands. They have no knowledge of the conditions at play at any employer, and only afterwards do they try to recruit the workers as members of the union. There has not yet been established a cohesive and effective form of defence against these practices.

The first thing to point out here is that a trade union is a civil society organisation. It can be established with as few as three people, one of which must be over the age of 18. A trade union is established upon entry on the list held at the Ministry of the Interior of the Slovak Republic following the submission of an application. Membership of the trade union is not limited to the employees of the employer, so any group of at least three people may establish a trade union.

Employers are not required to undertake their own investigation as to whether a union has been established in their workplace. The trade union must notify the employer in writing that a union has been established and submit a list of members of the trade union's executive committee (not a list of the union's members). This notice does not need to provide any other information apart from the fact that the union has been established together with a list of the members of the executive committee which acts on behalf of the trade union. The consequences arising out of failure to include that information in the notice are disputable. However, failure to give this notice or the absence of the required information in the notice may, in respect of unions established solely for the purpose of bullying a certain group of employers, provide the basis for invalidating the union due to its non-compliance with the legal requirements.

Apart from the legal requirement to notify the employer, the establishment and functioning of this single-purpose trade union may be deemed in conflict with the purpose of collective labour relationships as such, as well as being contrary to standard practice. No clear solution presents itself at the moment, and only if the activity of these trade unions grows to such proportions that one of the parties brings legal action will case-law then provide the ultimate answer.

Nonetheless, employers are required by law to recognise trade unions in the workplace. It should also be noted that more than one trade union may be present within the same employer. In fact, there may be various types of employee representatives alongside one another, for instance a trade union and a works council. If there are several trade unions in the company, the employer must fulfil its duties, such as consultation and co-determination, in respect of all the trade unions in matters that concern all or a majority of employees.

Labour laws are silent as to anything further as regards the duty of employers to recognise trade unions; however, there are various other specific requirements imposed on employers in respect of trade unions.

First of all, employers must provide space to members of the union at no charge where they can conduct their activities. Employers must also give paid time off to an extent agreed between the union and the employer to members of the trade union to do their union work. Where there is no agreement, the amount of time off is determined by multiplying the average number of workers employed by the employer in the previous calendar year by 15 (representing a 15-minute time period).

The most important role of a trade union is collective bargaining – entering into a collective agreement with the employer. The collective agreement covers all workers, even those who are not members of the union. Negotiating and concluding a collective agreement is a complex process that should not be underestimated and employers should give the process due regard. The actual bargaining process is informal and the parties set the tone.

Jana KudelčíkováRadoslava Slavikova Geržova

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