A full strike at Slovak Railways (ŽSR) is growing ever closer. The massive firm's trade unions say they are ready to walk out on March 29 if their wage demands are not met, and created a central strike committee on March 15 to back up their demands.
The demands of the workers prompted ŽSR director Andrej Egyed to write an open letter explaining that the railway's current financial situation does not allow the ŽRS to give workers a bigger wage increase than management presented in early March during failed negotiations over the 1999 collective agreement. Egyed appealed to employees to be patient.
But Imrich Sedlaček, a spokesman for the strike committee and head of the Trade Union Association of Railways Workers (OZZ), said that ŽSR management was still not bargaining in good faith.
The unions claim that the ŽSR has not kept its legal obligations towards its employees. Sedlaček said that the railway had proposed a wage hike only for certain groups of workers, something that was certain to cause strife. "The ŽSR proposal... would mean that employees in lower wage categories would end up with larger salaries than employees in higher categories. It seems that the only purpose of this proposal is to sow unrest among employees," stated Sedlaček.
He added that the management offer amounted to an average 5.2% wage increase as of April 1, but said that through layoffs, the ŽSR would keep its total wage costs at 1998 levels.
The ŽSR is Slovakia's biggest employer with more than 40,000 workers. The railway reported losses of 9.31 billion Slovak crowns from its operations in 1998. This sum is 1.651 billion crowns higher than in 1997.