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Chambers of commerce respond

foreign chambers of commerce have warned that if the amendment to the Labour Code is approved, it could have a negative effect on the economy.

foreign chambers of commerce have warned that if the amendment to the Labour Code is approved, it could have a negative effect on the economy.

Representatives of the American, British, French, Dutch, Israeli, Japanese, Austrian, German and Swedish chambers of commerce expressed their concern over several elements of the amendment at a press conference on April 17.

Points of concern included the proposals to increase trade unions' powers, restrict back-to-back employment contracts, give laid-off workers two months' notice plus two months' pay, and introduce a definition of dependent work.

"I do not think that there will be an exodus of investors," said Barbara Šípošová, HR director of PSA Peugeot Citroen Slovakia. But new investors might look further east or south, she said.

U.S. Steel Košice vice-president Miroslav Kiraľvarga criticized the proposal to reduce the amount of overtime work that an employer can give an employee for serious reasons, from the current 250 hours to 150 hours.

"The draft suppresses the free will of an employee to agree with his or her employer on overtime work," he said.

Although the ministry later withdrew this proposal in its tripartite negotiations with employers and trade unions, the number of employees that can carry out overtime work could still be reduced, Krivaľvarga added.

The chambers also warned that extending the period of notice and compensation for employees declared redundant could be harmful.

"A direct consequence of this will be an increase in the labour force cost," said Pavol Rak, from the German-Slovak Chamber of Industry and Commerce.

He said the measure will make employers more careful in hiring new employees, which could result in the growth of illegal labour.

Introducing a definition of dependent work, which would limit contracts between an employer and a self-employed contractor, will complicate the situation for small and medium-sized companies, warned Rak.

"Thanks to employing independent contractors, small and medium-sized companies are able to reduce labour costs by 20 to 30 percent," said Rak. "That is often a decisive factor in their survival on the market."

The chambers also disapproved of the changes to the code related to night shifts, the principle of the same wage for the same work, the amount of paid absence for employees away on trade union business, and the position of temp workers.

Foreign chambers of commerce represent most foreign firms on the Slovak market.

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