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Workplace Representation

Workplace level representation in Slovenia is provided by both the union in the workplace and the works council. Both have information and consultation rights, although the works council’s are more extensive, while only the union can undertake collective bargaining.

 

Employees at the workplace are represented both through their local union structures and, in workplaces with more than 20 employees, a works council. In practice works council members are frequently trade union activists, although the extent of trade union involvement varies from industry to industry.

 

 

The works council legislation dates originally from 1993 and draws heavily on the experiences in Germany and neighbouring Austria. Figures from 2004 suggest that around two-thirds of larger companies have works councils.1 However, there continue to be difficulties in their operations. In particular, where there are differences with the employer, it can take a long time to get issues to arbitration.

 

 

Numbers and structure

 

 

The numbers and structures of trade union representatives at the workplace are set by the unions themselves. It is worth noting, however, that there may sometimes be more than one union at the same workplace and that the number with protection against dismissal (see below) is set out in a collective agreement.

 

 

The arrangements for works councils, however, are set out in legislation.

 

 

Employees can set up a works council in any company with more than 20 employees. (Works councils in Slovenia are set up on a company rather than a plant basis.) In companies with 20 or fewer employees there is a right to appoint a workers’ trustee. (The right to set up a works council was extended to businesses which are not companies – such as sole traders – by the 2007 Workers’ Participation in Management Act. However, in these cases the lowest threshold is 50 employees.)

 

 

The size of the works council varies according to the number of employees as follows:

 

 

Number of employees

 

 

Number of works council members

 

 

21-50

 

 

3

 

 

51-100

 

 

5

 

 

101-200

 

 

7

 

 

201-400

 

 

9

 

 

401-600

 

 

11

 

 

601-1,000

 

 

13

 

 

 

There are then an extra two members for every further 1,000 employees.

 

 

The works council, which is a body composed entirely of employees, should elect a chair and a deputy chair and it can set up specialist committees to cover specific issues, such as health and safety, or issues of particular interest to certain groups of workers. These can be broad groups like women or younger workers, but they can also cover particular parts of the company’s business. They can also draw in employees other than the elected members of the works council, although two-thirds of the members of these specialist committees must be works council members, and only the works council can take the final decision.

 

 

The works council will typically meet once a month and normally there will be regular meetings with the employer.

 

 

Tasks and rights

 

 

A key task of the union representatives in the company is to carry out collective bargaining, in companies where this takes place. But they have a general right to “provide and protect the rights and interests of trade union members with the employer” (Employment Relations Act 2002).

 

 

In detail this means that the union must be informed and consulted by the employer: before adopting rules which lay down the organisation of work, in cases of redundancy and business transfer; and before the introduction of night work. The union must also be given details of the annual working time calendars. The employer must inform the union, where the employee affected wishes it, about the dismissal or disciplining of an individual union member. In both cases it can express an opinion on the employers’ action and, in the case of dismissal, a union objection leads to the dismissal being suspended until the issue has been determined in the courts.

 

 

The works council, under the Workers’ Participation in Management Act 2007, has a wider range of specific rights. It should receive information on the company’s economic situation and prospects, changes in company activity, changes in the organisation of technology and production as well as a copy of the company’s annual accounts.

 

 

The works council should also be consulted on a range of issues. In these cases consultation means giving the works council information at least 30 days beforehand and having a consultative meeting with the works council at least 15 days before the employer takes the decision concerned. The aim of the consultation is to arrive at a jointly agreed position.

 

 

The issues where this consultation is required include issues to do with the position of the company and issues to do with the position of employees. The main company-related issues are changes in the company’s legal status, sale or closure of the company or substantial parts of it and significant changes in ownership. The employee-related issues are the need for new staff (how many and what sort); job classification, transfers (more than 10% moving out of the company or somewhere else within it), new rules on pensions and other benefits, job losses, health and safety and the disciplinary code.

 

 

In addition there are some areas where the works council must agree with the employer’s proposals before they can be implemented. These are the arrangements for annual leave, performance assessment criteria, the suggestion scheme, the use of social facilities, such as holiday homes, owned by the company and the criteria for promotion. In all these cases, if the works council objects to the proposal, the issue goes to independent arbitration.

 

 

Election and term of office

 

 

The 2002 Employment Relations Act simply states that the trade union should “appoint and/or elect a trade union representative to represent it with the employer”. This leaves the arrangements, including the term of office, up to the union.

 

 

Works council members are elected by the employees in a secret ballot. Candidates can be proposed, either by the unions in the company or by a number of employees. The number needed to nominate starts at three and increases with the size of the workforce in the company, up to a maximum of 50.

 

 

The term of office is four years.

 

 

Protection against dismissal

 

 

Both works council members and trades union representatives have the same protection against dismissal. Provided they have not acted illegally or broken their employment contract they cannot be dismissed without the consent of the body to which they belong, except where the business is being wound up or the individual concerned has refused to accept a reasonable transfer. (Under the 2007 Worker Participation Act, the protection also no longer exists in cases of redundancy or where work is being transferred.) The number of union representatives enjoying this protection is determined by collective agreement.

 

 

Time off and other resources

 

 

Legislation requires that the employer should give trade union representatives “the conditions for quick and efficient performance of trade union activities” but other issues are settled through collective agreements. The agreement for the metal and foundry industries, for example, states that trade union representatives should have at least two hours paid time off a year per union member employed, with a minimum of 50 hours a year.

 

 

Works council members are entitled to time off in medium and large companies. In companies with between 50-100 employees one member is entitled to be released from normal duties on a half-time basis. In companies with 101-300 employees it is two members. In companies with 301-600 employees one person is entitled to be released on a full-time basis, rising to two in companies with 601-1,000. After this threshold there is one for every further 600 workers.

 

 

The company should also provide an office for the works council members, where they have some release from normal work, and pay for the material and equipment the works council needs. Experts may also be paid by the company if this has been agreed in advance.

 

 

Representation at group level

 

 

Where a company is part of a bigger group it is possible to set up a works council bringing together representatives from the works councils of all the companies concerned. The size and the distribution of seats are decided by the members themselves. In practice there are very few bodies of this sort.

L. Fulton (2013) Worker representation in Europe. Labour Research Department and ETUI. Produced with the assistance of the SEEurope Network, online publication available at http://www.worker-participation.eu/National-Industrial-Relations.