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Trade Unions

Union density, at around 11% of employees, is slightly higher in the Slovak Republic than in many other states of central and Eastern Europe. There is a single dominant union confederation, KOZ SR, although a new confederation has recently been founded.

There are probably around 275,000 trade unionists in the Slovak Republic. With 2.205 million employees, and taking account of the fact that not all union members are employees, this suggests that around 11% of employees are in unions.  This is similar to the latest Eurofound estimate of union density, which was “around 12%” in 2018.[1] It is also close to the estimate from the independent ICTWSS database , which put union density in Slovakia at 10.7% in 2016.[2]


The dominant trade union confederation in the Slovak Republic is KOZ SR. The latest figures published by the country’s statistical office show that it had 244,823 members in 2017.[3] However, the latest Eurofund figure for 2018 puts KOZ SR’s membership at 215,850.


KOZ SR is the Slovak successor of the Czechoslovak union confederation, ČSKOS, which was founded in March 1990 after the “Velvet Revolution” of 1989. Most of the members of the former ROH organisation – the union confederation in the communist period, which was dissolved in 1990 – joined ČSKOS, although the new union confederation adopted different policies and organisation. When Czechoslovakia split into two separate states, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic in 1993, CSKOS split into a Slovak organisation, KOZ SR, and a Czech organisation, ČMKOS.


KOZ SR is made up of 25 separate unions. Although KOZ SR does not publish detailed figures, the largest are almost certainly the metalworkers’ union, OZ KOVO, and the union for education workers, OZPŠAV, which has 54,000 members.[4] Other unions with significant membership are the public administration and public services union SLOVES, the health and welfare workers’ union SOZZaSS  (18,380 members) and the railway workers’ union OZŽ. Falling membership led to several union mergers between 2007 and 2009, but since then there have been few changes. The individual unions have considerable autonomy and the role of the confederation is essentially one of co-ordination, especially in discussions with the government. 


For many years, the only union confederations outside KOZ SR were:

  • the Christian union confederation, NKOS, whose largest affiliate is the teachers’ union ZPŠaV NKOS;
  • VSOZ, a smaller union grouping, which was set up in 1997; and
  • KUK a joint Czech and Slovak union body which includes some unions in the cultural sector.


The 2019 Eurofound report estimates that in 2018 NKOS had around 3,000 members and VSOZ around 500. There are no figures on KUK’s membership in Slovakia.[5]


However, in October 2018, five new trade unions came together to form a new union confederation, SOS.[6]  Three of the five unions in SOS, the nurses’ and midwives union, OZSaPA, set up in 2012, a schools’ union, NŠO, and a police union, NOZP, set up in 2015, are in the public sector, and two, Moderné odbory AIOS and Moderné odbory Volkswagen, are in the private sector. All five unions have developed in opposition to the KOZ SR affiliates. In the public sector, particularly in education and health, as a recent ETUI study on collective bargaining notes, “these new unions emerged in response to dissatisfaction with the results of bargaining within existing union structures” and seek support through protests demonstrations and petitions.[7] The situation is similar in Moderné odbory AIOS, which was set up in 2014 and has membership in a number of manufacturing and logistics companies, including at the Jaguar Land Rover car plant, the components maker Schaeffler  and an Amazon distribution centre. The origin of Moderné odbory Volkswagen is different. It emerged following a bitter dispute in 2016 between OZ KOVO’s national leadership and the union’s leadership in Volkswagen, which resulting in the bulk of OZ KOVO’s membership in Volkswagen leaving OZ KOVO and setting up a new union.


SOS has not published membership figures but the 2019 Eurofound report estimated total membership of its five affiliates to be 28,000 in 2018. Moderné odbory Volkswagen was reported to have 7,300 members in November 2016.[8] And a study of social dialogue in 2019 put the membership of the nurses and midwives’ union and the schools’ union at around 2,000 and under 1,000, respectively.[9]


The doctors’ union, LOZ, with 2,250 members is outside the confederations.


KOZ SR is politically independent but it has generally been close to the social democratic Smer-SD party, which was in government between 2006 and 2010 and again between 2012 and 2020. In March 2010, KOZ SR and Smer-SD signed a four-year cooperation agreement.[10] Since then relations have continued to be close. For example, Smer-SD backed KOZ SR in a clash with the labour minister over social dialogue in August 2020.[11] These links have been criticised by the unions in the SOS confederation and its statutes exclude unions which are not independent of political parties.


Union membership has declined since the creation of the Slovak Republic in 1993, when KOZ SR had 1,540,000 members. The confederation and individual unions have for some years taken a range of initiatives to improve the membership situation, but union numbers continue to fall. Figures in the statistical yearbook show that the membership of KOZ SR fell by 38% over 10 years, from 394,162 in 2007 to 244,823 in 2017, although the most rapid fall was in the first half of that period. Unions are stronger in the public sector and large-scale manufacturing but have almost no presence in the smaller companies in both manufacturing and services.


There are no official figures on the proportion of women in unions, but the most recent figures provided to the ETUC gender equality survey show that women made up 43.8% of the membership of KOZ SR in 2015.[12]

[1] Working life in Slovakia by Ludovit Cziria and Rastislav Bednarik, Eurofound November 2019 https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/country/slovakia#actors-and-institutions  (Accessed 20.08.2020)

[2] Jelle Visser, ICTWSS Data base. Version 6.1. Amsterdam: Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies AIAS. October 2019

[3] Statistical Yearbook of the Slovak Republic: 2019, Table 9-16

[4] Enhancing the effectiveness of social dialogue articulation in Europe (EESDA) National report: Slovakia by Marta Kahancová, Monika Martišková and Gábor Szüdi, CELSI, December 2019 https://celsi.sk/media/research_reports/RR29_V6XQ2Tv.pdf (Accessed 20.08.2020)

[5] Working life in Slovakia by Ludovit Cziria and Rastislav Bednarik, Eurofound November 2019

[6] Vzniká nová odborová konfederácia Spoločné odbory Slovenska, SME Ekonomika, 24 October 2018  https://ekonomika.sme.sk/c/20945150/vznika-nova-odborova-konfederacia-spolocne-odbory-slovenska.html (Accessed 20.08.2020)

[7] Slovakia: between coordination and fragmentation by Marta Kahancová, Monika Martišková and Mária Sedláková in Collective bargaining in Europe: towards an endgame, edited by Torsten Müller, Kurt Vandaele and Jeremy Waddington, ETUI, 2019

[8] Nedávno založené Moderné odbory Volkswagen už majú viac ako 7300, dzennikn.sk 03.11.2016 https://dennikn.sk/minuta/599546/  (Accessed 20.08.2020)

[9] Enhancing the effectiveness of social dialogue articulation in Europe (EESDA) National report: Slovakia by Marta Kahancová, Monika Martišková and Gábor Szüdi, CELSI, December 2019

[10] http://odbory.sk/page_sk/archiv/a_dohoda_smer.pdf  (Accessed 20.08.2020)

[11] Opozícia: Odborárov nemožno vyhnať z rokovania tripartity, Pravda, 25.08.2020 https://ekonomika.pravda.sk/ludia/clanok/561014-nazivo-smer-o-krachu-socialneho-dialogu/ (Accessed 25.08.2020)

[12] ETUC Annual Gender Equality Survey 2019 – 12th edition, by Lionel Fulton and Cinzia Sechi, ETUC, April 2019  https://www.etuc.org/sites/default/files/circular/file/2019-05/ETUC_Annual_Equality_Survey%202019_FINAL_EN.pdf (Accessed 01.07.2020)  

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.