The Slovak Spectator (TSS): Do you think you were successful as KOZ leader, given the fact that during your tenure the unions lost their influence on cabinet decisions and saw their membership fall?
Ivan Saktor (IS):I was elected KOZ president in 1996. It was a difficult period of transformation in economic relations, privatisation, and social policy, which often had severe effects on citizens and union members in Slovakia. Slovakia's quirky political scene also made it difficult for unions to identify their natural allies.
Former Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda's two governments covered eight years, and that was a difficult period for Slovak unions because the government, especially in the 2002-2006 period, was practicing clearly neo-liberal politics. Labour unions were the only force in Slovakia that managed to create resistance and pressure against the decline of society. Every organized community gets worn down by having to fight constantly and yet see no results for regular citizens and union members. I also see this as one of the reasons for the decline in our membership.
TSS: What are the other reasons?
IS: Falling membership is not just a problem for Slovak unions. I don't mean to duck [criticism], but Slovak labour unions saw a lower decrease in membership than labour unions in surrounding countries. In general, unions state that changes in the forms and nature of work - moving from concentrated workplaces with many employees to the atomisation and individualization of work, where labour unions have less access - are behind the membership decline.
TSS: What direction do you think labour unions should take in the near future?
IS: Slovak and European unions have a future, but they must be faster and more flexible in reacting to globalisation trends.
However, we have managed to clearly define the KOZ's attitudes towards political parties in Slovakia. The agreement on post-election cooperation with Smer created conditions for unions to considerably strengthen their position in companies and organizations, as well as on the national level. The outlook is good.
- Martina Jurinová