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Collective Bargaining

Around four-fifths (79%) of employees are covered by collective bargaining in Slovenia, although there are no official figures, and negotiations take place at industry and company level, as well as at national level in the public sector. Coverage has fallen since a change in the law in 2006 which removed the obligation on employers to be members of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The framework

 

There is extensive collective bargaining in Slovenia. In the private sector there is collective bargaining between unions and employers at industry and company level. In the public sector, there is both an agreement covering the whole of the non-commercial sector, and separate agreements for different parts of it. However, national bargaining for the whole private sector, which had produced a collective bargaining of coverage level close to 100%, ceased to apply from 2006 onwards (see below).[1]

 

As well as bargaining at industry and company level, there have also been a series of tripartite national agreements between the unions, employers and government, covering a range of economic and social issues,

 

Industry level agreements must be registered with the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, and in September 2020 there were 44 on the register, excluding four which had been cancelled.[2] Around two-thirds are for the private sector, covering a wide range of industries and services, and most had been recently renewed. Agreements renewed in 2018 or later include commerce (retail and wholesale), where a four-year agreement was signed in 2018, the agriculture and the food industry, the metal industry, the graphical industry, construction and real estate (all signed in 2019), and the electrical industry, hospitality and tourism and banking (all 2020).There is also an agreement which covers a wide range of small business known as the KPdg, last updated in 2018.

 

Despite this wide range, there are gaps at industry level. For example the industry-level agreement for  the chemicals and rubber industry was not renewed when it expired in 2014, although both employers and unions have said in the past that they would like to negotiate a new deal.[3] The agreement for crafts and entrepreneurship, known as KPOP, also expired at the end of 2018.  In the view of the recent ETUI study on collective bargaining in Slovenia, one reason why the chemicals and rubber industry agreement has not been renewed is that the existing company agreements in the larger companies industry provide pay and conditions above those likely to be agreed at industry level.[4]

 

The information available on company agreements is limited. There is no requirement to register company level agreements, and no recent assessment of their number. However, in 2004, Eurofound estimated that “several thousand company collective bargaining agreements” had been signed.[5] Unions are also concerned that employers are trying to bypass industry level agreements and shift bargaining to company level.[6]

 

Collective agreements at industry level only normally apply to employers who are members of the employers’ association that has signed the agreement. However, under the terms of Article 12 of the 2006 Collective Agreements Act, known as ZKolP, industry level agreements can be extended by the minister of labour to all the companies in an industry under certain conditions. These are that the union and the employers’ association signing the agreement  are representative, and that the employers in the employers’ association employ more than half the employees in the industry concerned.

 

In September 2020, 16 current agreements on the register were listed as being extended by the minister in this way: commerce, construction, hospitality and tourism, metal materials and foundries, the electrical industry, paper manufacturing, non-metallic minerals, textiles, clothing and leather, road passenger transport, the coal industry, forestry, postal and courier activities, small business (but only for driving schools)  private security and real estate.[7]

 

In general agreements at a lower level can only improve on the arrangements reached at the higher level. However, Article 5.2 of the 2006 Collective Agreements Act introduced a provision under which a higher-level agreement can specifically permit lower level agreements to worsen conditions. Some agreements include this provision. For example the agreement for the metal industry states that “ derogation from the minimum standards [set out in the agreement] may be agreed for a limited duration not exceeding six months in a special agreement concluded between the employer and the representative trade union at the employer, in particular in cases of substantial deterioration of the business, recession in the industry and in similar substantiated circumstances.”[8]

 

The possibility of allowing company level agreements to set worse terms and conditions than those established at industry level was extended very slightly in the 2013 Employment Relations Act, known as ZDR-1. This allows individual employers use their own criteria in selecting workers for redundancy rather than applying the terms of the industry-level agreement, provided there is a local agreement with the union to do so (Article 102).[9]

 

In the public sector, the legal framework for collective bargaining is provided by separate legislation, the Public Sector Salary System Act, known as ZSPJS, which is regularly amended. Below this there is a separate agreement for the public sector (KPJS), and below that 16 agreements for different parts of the public sector, such as health and social care, compulsory social security and education, plus occupational groups like doctors and dentists, firefighters and the police.

 

In the past almost all employees were covered by collective agreements, primarily because in the private sector, on the employers’ side, collective agreements were also signed by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS), to which all employers had to belong . However, membership of the Chamber was made voluntary, and, under the 2006 Collective Agreements Act, that only employers or employers’ associations with a voluntary membership are able to sign collective agreements.

 

This has clearly reduced the coverage of collective bargaining. In the public sector all employees continue to be covered by collective agreements but in the private sector the number covered has fallen,  despite the possibility of extending agreements to all employees in a specific industry. There are no official figures on collective bargaining coverage but the 2019 study by the ETUI estimates that private sector coverage  was 73% in 2016, producing an average for the economy as a whole of 79%.[10]

 

In addition to collective bargaining between employers and unions, there is also a tripartite economic and social council (ESS), initially set up in 1994. It deals with a range of labour and social issues, and brings together eight representatives each from the unions, employers and government. As well as discussing issues, such as pensions and health care, it also covers taxation and reviews the government’s legislative proposals in the employment field.

 

The ESS has in the past reached agreements setting out joint goals across a range of issues. The most recent substantial social agreement to be signed was in February 2015, for the period 2015-16. It covered a wide range of areas and, on pay, stated that collective agreements were to be the basis for setting wages, that private sector pay rises would take account of inflation and productivity growth, and that public sector earnings would not rise faster than pay in the private sector. However, expectations that this might have a major impact were dashed when the employers withdrew from the agreement in November 2015, after the unions presented proposals for changes to the national minimum wage rules which were subsequently adopted.[11]

 

There have been conflicts over the role of the ESS since then, with both unions and employers complaining that it was being bypassed after issues were raised directly in parliament.[12] The issue was resolved through a new agreement between unions, employers and the government where the government promised that it would “strictly abide by and implement” the ESS rules and would not “adopt or propose for adoption” any regulations in the areas covered by the ESS without first having them considered in the ESS.[13]

Who negotiates and when?

 

At industry level the parties to collective agreements are the unions on one side and the employers’ associations, including the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which is now a voluntary body (see above), on the other. On the unions’ side the negotiating team at industry level typically consists both of full-time union officials and union representatives in individual companies.

 

At company level the negotiating parties are the individual employer and the local trade union.

 

There are no specific representativeness rules affecting unions’ right to bargaining. However, industry-level agreements can only be extended to all employees in the industry concerned if they have been signed by a representative union. Unions within a confederation must have 10% of the affected workforce in membership; unions operating outside a confederation must have 15%.

The Collective Agreements Act allows agreements to be negotiated for a definite or indefinite period (Article 9). In practice, many agreements, or at least key elements of them, are renegotiated annually, although this is not always the case. The 2018 graphical industries agreement, for example, is for an “indefinite period” but its pay annexes have been re-negotiated annually since then. In contrast the 2018 commerce agreement last for four years, until 31 December 2022 and the agreement for the hospitality and tourism sector lasts for more than two years – also ending at the end of 2022.

When an agreement expires, its terms continue in force until a new agreement has been concluded for a period of up to a year unless the signatories have agreed some other arrangement (Article 17).

The subject of the negotiations

 

As well as pay, negotiations cover working conditions and working time, absence arrangements, redundancy terms, training and a range of procedural issues such as dispute resolution, trade union facilities and information arrangements. The metalworking agreement, for example, includes provisions on service-related leave, leave for family occurrences such as weddings, disciplinary arrangements, mentoring for trainees, time off for union duties, long-service payments and pay protection for older workers.

 

On pay, most agreements contain pay rates based on a nine or eight-level grading structure, linked to education and qualifications, with very simple tasks requiring no specific education at the bottom and extremely challenging tasks requiring a doctorate or higher at the top. However, some of the differentials provided by this structure have been lost, as in many agreements the lowest grades are below the level of Slovenia’s national minimum wage.

 

Since the passing of the Minimum Wage Act (ZMinP) in 2010, minimum wages in Slovenia have been set by the minister of labour, following consultations with the unions and employers. The national minimum wage must go up in least in line with past inflation, although the minister should also consider wage trends, economic conditions and employment trends.

[1] For a detailed examination of collective bargaining in Slovenia see Slovenia: organised decentralisation in the private sector and centralisation in the public sector by Miroslav Stanojević and Andreja Poje in Collective bargaining in Europe: towards an endgame, edited by Torsten Müller, Kurt Vandaele and Jeremy Waddington, ETUI, 2019

[2] Records of collective agreements (Evidenca kolektivnih pogodb), Ministrstvo za delo, družino, socialne zadeve in enake možnosti https://www.gov.si/teme/delovna-razmerja/  (Accessed 29.09.2020)

[3] Sindikat KNG prekinil pogajanja za kolektivno pogodbo (KNG union suspended negotiations for a collective agreement), RTV-SLO, 22 October 2018 https://www.rtvslo.si/gospodarstvo/sindikat-kng-prekinil-pogajanja-za-kolektivno-pogodbo/469592 (Accessed 29.09.2020)

[4] Slovenia: organised decentralisation in the private sector and centralisation in the public sector by Miroslav Stanojević and Andreja Poje in Collective bargaining in Europe: towards an endgame, edited by Torsten Müller, Kurt Vandaele and Jeremy Waddington, ETUI, 2019

[5] Collective agreement register and archive proposed, Štefan Skledar, EIRO http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/eiro/2004/01/feature/si0401103f.htm (Accessed 29.09.2020)

[6] Sindikati zasebnega sektorja bodo 5. decembra protestirali pred sedežem delodajalskih združenj Private sector unions will protest in front of the headquarters of employers' associations on 5 December RTV-SLO, 21 November 2018 https://www.rtvslo.si/gospodarstvo/sindikati-zasebnega-sektorja-bodo-5-decembra-protestirali-pred-sedezem-delodajalskih-zdruzenj/472472 (Accessed 29.09.2020)

[7] Records of collective agreements (Evidenca kolektivnih pogodb) Ministrstvo za delo, družino, socialne zadeve in enake možnosti

[8] Collective agreement for the Slovenian metal industry Kolektivna pogodba za kovinsko industrijo Slovenije, Article 5, updated 21 December 2018

http://www.pisrs.si/Pis.web/pregledPredpisa?id=KOLP402  (Accessed 29.09.2020)

[9] Regulation of rights in collective agreements and the role of trade unions under the new Employment Relationship Act by Katarina Kresal Šoltes, 2013, in Delavci in Delodajalci: Revija za delovno pravo in pravo socialne varnosti, 2-3/2013 http://www.delavciindelodajalci.com/P/PDF/Delavci_in_delodajalci_2-3-2013.pdf (Accessed 29.09.2020) and Employment Relations Act (ZDR-1) Article 102

[10] Slovenia: organised decentralisation in the private sector and centralisation in the public sector by Miroslav Stanojević and Andreja Poje in Collective bargaining in Europe: towards an endgame, edited by Torsten Müller, Kurt Vandaele and Jeremy Waddington, ETUI, 2019

[11] Withdrawal of employer associations and chambers from the Social Contract for the 2015-2016 period - 2 December 2015, ESS News http://www.ess.si/ess/ess-eng.nsf/economic-and-social-council/Meeting%20Economic%20and%20Social%20Council (Accessed 29.09.2020)

[12] Economic and Social Council froze dialogue, Domovina, 28 September 2019   https://www.domovina.je/ekonomsko-socialni-svet-zamrznil-dialog/  (Accessed 29.09.2020)

[13] Protocol of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia and Social Partners, ESS, 15 November 2019 http://www.ess.si/ess/ess-eng.nsf/economic-and-social-council/protocol-of-the-government-of-the-republic-of-slovenia-and-social-partners (Accessed 29.09.2020)

L. Fulton (2021) National Industrial Relations, an update (2019-2021). Labour Research Department and ETUI (online publication). Online publication available at http://www.worker-participation.eu/National-Industrial-Relations.