KOVO union leader Emil Machyna critical of firms,
Courtesy of KOVO
The Slovak Spectator: How would you describe the current state of the machinery industry in Slovakia?
Emil Machyna: The state is critical, and is a consequence of the uncompleted revitalisation of the factories and their new production capacities, as well as our falling competitiveness on foreign markets...The sector has forgotten the fact that rehabilitation of the machinery industry in its current state is not enough. No new projects or new types of management have been introduced. What companies also lack is operating capital. Even companies which have new programmes do not have operating capital, because bank interest rates are about 23%, but the profitability of these companies is only 6%. That means they can hardly go on.
TSS: How has privatisation influenced the development of the sector?
EM: That's a part of the problem for sure. Many privatizers realised they couldn't become rich quickly. They realised that the process might take generations. So they created other trading companies, which they used to carry out trade and sales. They took as much as possible from the original company, everything that was good, and created a new company from scratch so they could make money immediately. The new companies did not even have to be 'daughters', they might have been independent trading companies...Because of this we should call for some changes in the commercial code as well. It should not allow owners who intentionally left obligations with the mother company to create new companies, where they then transfered know-how, workers and part of the property.
TSS: Do you think KOVO might have been more hard line in its relations with company owners, and thus have avoided the current state?
EM: Yes, people lost confidence in us slightly. We were too humble. We chose more global reforms to get the people on our side. We, as labour unions, have very limited rights, which is not that bad. But the real power we have is in solidarity and support for our demands. And that's what we have undervalued a bit, which means a loss of confidence. So today we have to fight hard to get the trust of the workers back.
TSS: Do you think an inflow of foreign investment in the near future could solve the situation in the sector?
EM: If the foreign capital does not have a speculative character, but really intends to guarantee a certain space on the market, then it could be a real chance. You can see that at the few Slovak factories with foreign capital, they don't have problems with wage payments, with social security, health care and so on. It's a chance that goes hand in hand with the current globalisation of the economy. We simply can't avoid it.
TSS: Slovak machinery products used to have a good reputation in the world. Do you think Slovakia will be able to recover its good name?
EM: It's personalities that make history, not the nation. The same applies with companies. They are directed by individuals, not by the workers. What the Slovak economy lacks is personalities in top management. It's never only a question of capital. Slovak workers have good manual skills, but that's not enough. They have to function in a system directed by the right person, one who knows all the problems of those below him. We have only a few such people. If we find more, we'll be able to recover our lost credibility.