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2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Czech Republic

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Czech Republic, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd88955c.html [accessed 20 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 10,490,000
Capital: Prague

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Attempted Murders: 1
Threats: 1

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

The government's approach to social dialogue is perfunctory and the difficult financial climate has also created a difficult environment for trade unions. This is reflected in the many violations of union rights reported in different sectors of the economy. The right to strike is limited.

Background

Liek other European countries, the Czech economy was hit by the global economic crisis with an increasing unemployment rate at 9% of the workforce and GDP growth around 1.7% for 2011.

The right-wing coalition government pushed through a series of austerity reforms in the areas of employment, health, pensions, tax and social security, hitting vulnerable social groups hard and weakening workers' rights and the position of workers' representatives.

Social dialogue has been formal with the government very reluctant to engage in consultation and not respecting social partners' positions. A day of protest was held in Prague on 21 May, with 50,000 people taking to the streets and further protest activities were held on 17 November, the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.

Trade union rights in law

Although basic trade union rights are secured, they were set back in 2008 when the Constitutional Court repealed several provisions of the 2007 Labour Code. The right of everyone to associate freely with others to protect economic and social interests is guaranteed in the Constitution. The 2009 anti-discrimination law provides for equal treatment with regard to trade union membership and activities, but does not sufficiently protect workers against anti-union discrimination.

Furthermore, while the law recognises the right to collective bargaining, there is little scope for negotiations on pay in the public sector. Finally, the right to strike, in relation to collective bargaining, is coupled with a number of restrictions. To call a strike, both a two-thirds majority of the votes cast in a ballot and the participation of one half of total number of employees in the voting procedure is needed. Furthermore, these strikes are only possible after all mediation and arbitration procedures have been exhausted, which lasts at least 30 days. The list of "essential services" exceeds the ILO definition. Legal framework for other types of strike is still lacking despite relevant constitutional provisions and decisions of the Highest Court of the Czech Republic.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Poor climate for good industrial relations:

The implementation of a raft of austerity social reforms by the country's right-wing coalition government has created a harsh environment for trades unions. Indeed the lack of consultation and provision of information during the government's reform process has been indicative.

CMKOS report regular difficulties in the areas of collective bargaining, the right to information and consultation, the freedom to organise and in discrimination against trade union activists. The government's programme is having a damaging cumulative effect on both workers' and unions' rights.

Amendments to the Labour Code which take effect from the beginning of 2012 have already impacted on the collective bargaining system as the government seeks to shift employment contracts as a matter for relations between the employer and the individual worker. With the introduction of a minimum membership threshold, employees in small enterprises could lose union rights. Other amendments chip away at unions' role, including ending the need for employers to consult with unions on matters relating to individuals, as well as ending the requirement of mutual agreement on some workplace issues.

CMKOS believes there was a political agenda behind moves by the finance ministry to stop a strike in the transport sector in June; a belief that was vindicated by the courts when CMKOS won an appeal.

The opt-out from the EU's charter of fundamental rights also remains an area of considerable concern.

Violations

Conflict at opera merger: Employees of the State Opera in Prague who voiced their protest against the Ministry of Culture's decision to merge Prague's opera houses were threatened by the management with dismissal and other punishments. In addition, the initial decision was taken without consulting the Trade Union of Professional Singers of the Czech Republic on the potential impact of the merger.

Hotel forces trade union chairman out: The Parkhotel s.r.o. in Prague, which is contending with serious financial problems, placed the chairman of the organisation's trade union under such pressure that he decided to end his contract of employment. He nonetheless continues to run the trade union office.

Metalworkers' union reports intimidation in Brno:

Following the establishment of a local trade union organisation of OS KOVO (Czech Metalworkers' Union), the management of a globally-known company in Brno started to mount pressure on the trade union committee members, as well as on other workers, inviting them to withdraw their membership of the union or not join it at all. The management established a works council composed of employees close to management and downgraded the contract of the trade union organisation's chairman (despite having a university degree he was transferred to manual work). Thereafter, the management introduced administrative steps with a view to dissolving the trade union organisation and refused entry to the premises of a representative of a higher trade union body who had been invited to participate in a public meeting of members.

OS KOVO had to intervene to remedy the situation. The name of the company involved has been kept anonymous at the request of the union.

Flagrant abuse of migrant forestry workers:

In a very worrying development, the abuse of several hundred migrant workers in the Czech state forest sector was widely reported in 2011. Workers from Vietnam, Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine were hired by sub-contractors in 2009 to work in the state forests but were left unpaid over a period of months.

The Czech State Forestry enterprise (Lesy CR) had subcontracted work to two Prague based companies Affumicata a.s. and Wood Servis Praha s.r.o. In the case of the Vietnamese workers, it is thought that they were tricked into signing educational rather than employment contracts. Lesy CR said that they could were not responsible for the actions of subcontractors, whilst the parent body of Lesy CR, the agriculture ministry stated that it could not be held responsible for employment matters.

French embassy ignores request for dialogue: The French embassy in Prague has ignored repeated requests from employees who had established a trade union organisation and wished to enter into social dialogue. A number of important issues such as the merger of the embassy's cultural department with the French Institute remained outstanding. The union has sought a collective agreement through the use of a mediator, but there has again been no response from the employer.

Building workers' union reports several violations:

After considerable delay, a foreign company (name withheld at the request of the union) communicated the name of the person authorised to represent the company in labour relations. Thereupon, the branch of OS STAVBA (Czech Building Workers Union) submitted a draft collective agreement and nominated its negotiating team. It included an outside expert (officer of the union), whose participation the employer opposed. The employer provided information exclusively to the chairman of the trade union organisation and was prepared to negotiate directly only with him. This was not in accordance with the relevant provisions of the labour code, according to which information has to be provided to the statutory body of the union, which is the company trade union committee. These provisions also clearly define groups of persons to be present at the bargaining table.

At the same time, the employer announced his decision to withdraw from the existing collective agreement. Several other provisions of the labour code were violated by the employer, including submitting draft individual contracts to employees although the trade union was negotiating collectively.

Numerous violations in the forestry sector: The Trade Union of Workers in the Woodworking Industry, Forestry and Management of Water Supplies has reported a serious situation in the State Enterprise "Lesy České Republiky" (Czech forests), where a great number of complaints have been received concerning the violation of trade union rights, including failure to provide information and to consult, obstructions in the process of collective bargaining, as well as of workers' rights (unlawful cuts in wages, bullying, pressure to terminate contracts of employment).

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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