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2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Czech Republic

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2010
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Czech Republic, 9 June 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c4fec8128.html [accessed 30 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: 10,400,000
Capital: Prague
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The protection of workers' rights, organising and collective bargaining are becoming increasingly difficult as many companies are pushed to downsize or relocate. At least two union leaders were offered incentives if they collaborated with the employers' union-busting tactics. The right to strike is limited.

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Although basic trade union rights are secured, they were set back in 2008 when the Constitutional Court repealed several provisions of the 2007 Labour Code.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 is coupled with a number of restrictions. To call a strike, a two-thirds majority of the votes cast in a ballot is needed. Strikes are only allowed in the event of disputes over the conclusion of a collective agreement, and 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.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009

Background: Many companies have downsized or cut wages and workers' benefits. A poll by the Chamber of Commerce revealed that up to 20% of domestic companies have seriously considered relocating abroad. A number of enterprises have moved eastwards, in pursuit of lower labour costs, or to Western Europe, to take advantage of a more favourable business climate. In May, trade unions held a large demonstration in Prague to protest against companies' abuse of the economic crisis for acting against their employees' interests.

Tough economic circumstances hamper protection of rights: The Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions reports that trade union rights violations are on the rise, but that defending the rights and even reporting specific cases is difficult in the current economic situation. Practices such as bullying are often covert and difficult to prove, and workers who speak up risk losing their jobs or suffering an adverse impact on their wages and working conditions. In addition, new recruits are frequently warned that trade union membership is not welcome.

Obstacles to free collective bargaining: Employers do not always bargain in good faith: trade unions report that the information provided by companies for collective bargaining can be inadequate or arrive too late. Companies frequently ignore their legal obligation to consult the workers' representatives on work-related issues.

In healthcare services, collective bargaining is hampered by a transfer of decision-making authority from the management of the respective establishment to the state administration, which gives precise and binding instructions on how jobs are classified and remunerated. Employers and unions may reach an agreement, but the employers still need to negotiate with the central authorities that provide the budget.

Anti-union tactics at Comco Europe: On 28 January, a trade union organisation affiliated to the Czech Metalworkers' Federation (KOVO) was established at the Comco Europe limited company in Staré Hradiste. Despite repeated requests by the union for co-operation, the employer ignored the union and did not even fulfil its basic duties as stipulated by law, such as consulting the trade union committee or asking for its consent on certain work-related issues. The management tried to manipulate several members of the trade union committee into resigning from their jobs by offering very unfavourable amendments to their employment contracts. The company also tried to dissolve the union via court proceedings, but did not succeed.

No bargaining at ASKO: The management of furniture producer ASKO evaded collective bargaining with the Trade Union of Workers in the Woodworking Industry, Forestry and Water Management. All union proposals were ignored, and the local union leader was offered an incentive if he agreed to disband the organisation.

Broad anti-union tactics at ZO Pramen CZ: Members of the Trade Union of Workers in Commerce at ZO Pramen CZ were threatened that the company would close its work units if the workers refused to withdraw their union membership. The company's sales units in Mnichovo Hradiste and Liberec were indeed shut down, officially for "organisational reasons", even though other units had produced a less good business performance. The union chairwoman was offered a place on the company supervisory board if she agreed to disband the organisation.

Anti-union harassment at Lidl: In March, when a branch of the Trade Union of Workers in Commerce was established in Lidl Ceská Republika v.o.s, the company immediately started to bully the union members. The union wrote to the Lidl head office in Germany, drawing the central management's attention to these unlawful practices.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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