Last Updated: Thursday, 28 August 2014, 16:05 GMT

2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Czech Republic

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 20 November 2008
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Czech Republic, 20 November 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca97a.html [accessed 29 August 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: 10,200,000
Capital: Prague
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 182

The new Labour Code improved trade unions' position, but they still struggle to exercise their rights on the shop-floor level. Some restrictions of the right to strike are incompatible with the ILO standards.

Trade union rights in law

The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Basic Freedoms, which forms part of the Czech Constitution, guarantees the right of everyone to associate freely with others to protect economic and social interests. Trade unions shall be independent of the state, and the right to strike in accordance with the law is guaranteed. Judges, prosecutors and members of the armed and security forces do not have the right to strike.

The law guarantees the right to organise and provides for protection from anti-union discrimination. Foreigners and migrant workers also have the right to organise. Trade union members cannot be employed in the intelligence services.

New Labour Code comes into force, with hurdles: The new Labour Code came into force in January 2007, applauded by the ITUC-affiliated Czech-Moravian Trade Union Confederation (CMKOS), which sees the new law as a fair balance between the interests of business and labour. The Labour Code removed earlier restrictions on freedom of association and gave a bigger role to collective bargaining. However, a group of right-wing politicians opposed the Code and even asked the Czech Constitutional Court to abolish certain provisions of the Code, mostly those related to the union's rights of intervention at the workplace. The court's verdict is expected in 2008. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs announced its intention to prepare a set of substantial amendments to the Labour Code. CMKOS fears that these amendments will serve the opponents of the new Code, who believed that workers received too many rights, and will decrease the rights to the absolute minimum stipulated in the European Union directives.

Collective bargaining: The new Labour Code opens up new opportunities for collective bargaining both in the public and private sector. In contrast with the previous system, where a collective agreement could merely improve on the rights expressly provided by law, the new code only stipulates the minimum level of workers' rights and the maximum level of their obligations, which an agreement should respect. All other aspects of the employment relationship are left to the discretion of workers, employers and their organisations.

While the previous system did not leave much room for collective bargaining in the public sector, the new Code allows for many more issues to be covered by collective bargaining. However, the limitations of the state budget must be respected, and so there is little scope for negotiation on pay, and paid leave may not be a subject for bargaining.

Right to strike: Strikes are prohibited in certain essential services, but the list of these covers some sectors – such as nuclear energy and oil and natural gas pipelines – that do not conform to the ILO definition of such services (i.e., that their interruption would endanger the life, personal safety or health of part or all of the population).

The Act on Collective Bargaining establishes a majority requirement of two-thirds of the votes cast by all the workers covered by an agreement, before a strike can take place. The ILO Committee of Experts has expressed its opinion that although the requirement of a strike ballot is not, in principle, incompatible with C.87, the ballot method, the quorum and the majority should not be such that the exercise of the right to strike becomes very difficult or impossible to exercise. The experts consider that the requirement of a two-thirds majority is unreasonably high.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Frequent violations: Companies often exhibit anti-union behaviour, such as hostile attitudes, failure to co-operate with trade unions as provided in the Labour Code and Collective Bargaining Act, and refusal to provide trade union representatives paid time off for fulfilling their duties. For example, Boscolo hotel group has been refusing to bargain or to cooperate with the trade union since the union was founded in 2005. The company "AVX Czech Republic" (town of Lanskroun) did not allow trade union representative to go on paid leave (provided by law), reasoning that in the USA workers are not paid wages for their trade union activities. CMKOS reports that trade union leaders on the shop floor are pressured into giving up trade union activities, or quitting their jobs.

Labour inspectorates are not of much help when it comes to trade union rights, since their opportunities to apply financial sanctions on employers are rather limited. The law gives labour inspectorates room to decide whether to investigate workplace problems; as a result, labour inspectors are not always willing to investigate cases of noncompliance with collective bargaining agreements, nor are they willing to investigate employers' failure to engage in a process of information and consultation with trade unions.

There continues to be significant divergence between the reports of anti-union discrimination in practice raised by CMKOS and ITUC and the claims by government that the labour inspectorate has not registered a single proven case of anti-union discrimination since the entry into force of the Labour Inspection Act No. 251/2005 and that at the end of 2007 there were only two such allegations under investigation.

No co-operation in Jesenik town: The Jesenik municipal council does not feel obliged to inform and consult with trade unions on the envisaged organisational changes affecting staff, regardless of what the Labour Code says about such situations. The administration believes that the Act on Municipalities takes precedence over the Labour Code, and, since the change was decided on the basis of the former, the council secretary is only obliged to inform the trade union post-factum.

Update on Plus Discount: The Plus Discount supermarket chain, which belongs to the German Tengelmann chain, has been mentioned in this survey for two consecutive years. In August 2006 the OSPO trade union (affiliated to UNI-commerce) succeeded in signing a collective agreement, but in January the relationship between union and management deteriorated. Disrespect to trade union activities, failure to inform and consult with the trade union, and unethical treatment of trade unionists by middle management were reported. Despite promises to rectify the situation, the employer did not take measures to put an end to such practices. The collective agreement is, however, being duly implemented by both parties.

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