Collective Bargaining

Almost all employees have been covered by collective bargaining in Slovenia – partly a result of the past position where the employers’ side included chambers of commerce and industry, to which all employers had to belong. Negotiations take place at industry and company level, and at national level in the public sector.

 

The framework

 

 

Collective bargaining in Slovenia is highly structured. In the private sector there is collective bargaining between unions and employers at industry and company level. However, national bargaining for the private sector as a whole ceased the at end of 2005, following a decision by the employers to withdraw from it in the light of the changed legislative framework. The agreement which previously covered the whole of the private sector, known by its initials as the SKPzGD, was cancelled in 2005.

 

 

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.

 

 

In addition, there have been 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, and in April 2013 there were 46 public and private sector agreements registered since the passage of new collective bargaining legislation in 2006, although not all had been updated recently.1 As well as agreements covering specific industries such as the food industry, metalworking and textiles, there is also an agreement covering small businesses, which covers a wide range of sectors. There is no requirement to register company level agreements but EIRO estimated in 2004 that “several thousand company collective bargaining agreements” had been signed.2

In general agreements at a lower level can only improve on the arrangements reached at the higher level. However, the 2006 Collective Agreements Act introduced a provision under which a higher level agreement can specifically provide for lower level agreements to worsen conditions. Some agreements include this provision. For example the 2011 agreement for the banking sector states that “minimum standards set out in this Collective Agreement shall be permissible only on the basis of a written agreement between the union and the employer where there has been a sudden deterioration of business over the previous year.”3

Collective agreements at industry level only normally apply to employers who are members of the employers’ association that has signed the agreement, although they apply to all their employees, provided they have been signed with a representative union (see section on unions). However, industry level agreements can be extended by the minister of labour to all the companies in an industry if, again, the union signing the agreement is representative and the employers in the employers’ association employ more than half the employees in the industry. In April 2013, eight agreements had been extended by the minister in this way, covering commerce, the foundry industry, the electrical industry, the metal industry, textiles, clothing and leather, road transport and chemicals and plastics.

 

 

In the past a very high proportion of all employees were covered by collective agreements (96% in September 2005).4 The main reason for this extensive coverage was that, on the employers’ side, collective agreements were also signed by the chambers of commerce and industry, and in 2005 all employers had to be members of these chambers. However, membership of the chambers has now been made voluntary, and the 2006 Collective Agreements Act provides that only employers or employers’ associations with a voluntary membership are able to sign collective agreements, with a three-year transitional period before this came fully into effect.

 

 

Despite the change collective bargaining coverage is still high, in part because of the use of extension mechanisms. EIRO estimates that around 90% of employees in Slovenia are covered by collective bargaining.5

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 reached a number of agreements setting out joint goals across a range of issues. The most recent “social agreement” to be signed was reached in October 2007, and ran to the end of 2009. However, since then it has not proved possible to reach a similar wide ranging agreement, although new labour market legislation, which was introduced in April 2013 was discussed in the ESS.

 

Who negotiates and when?

 

 

At industry level the parties to collective agreements are the unions on one side and the employers’ associations, including the chambers of commerce and industry, which are now voluntary bodies (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.

 

 

Agreements typically run for a year, but sometimes last longer.

 

 

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 metal and foundry agreement, for example, includes provisions on service-related leave, leave for family occurrences such as weddings, disciplinary arrangements, training, 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-level grading structure, with very simple tasks at the bottom and extremely challenging tasks 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. Until 2006 the minimum wage was set as a result of tri-partite agreement between unions, employers and the government. However, it is now set by the government alone, following consultation with employers and unions, on the basis of forecast inflation.

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.

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