Despite the long tradition of high membership in labor unions in Slovakia, workers are increasingly apathetic to what's happening with the rights and benefits they are entitled to from their employer.
Slovakia inherited its labor union tradition from its communist rulers. Unions were the way the country's red-star leaders wanted to show the world their will to care for workers. However, any effort on the part of unions to challenge Soviet-oriented legislation during those years failed. People got used to formal membership in unions, and ceased questioning the true purpose of labour associations. After the 1989 revolution, work legislation changed, but people remained the same and their approach to labor unions stayed indifferent.
Beer over dues
"We [labour unions] seem to be more radical in what we say than in what we do," said Stanislav Tarnovský, head of the economic and collective bargaining department at Kovo Metalworkers' Federation. "It's because people have not yet realized the advantage of gathering citizens together, or the uses of collective power," he said.
The fact that workers would rather avoid being involved in collective solutions to problems was illustrated also by Ján Jankovič, union leader at VW Bratislava. "Some workers refuse to be involved in labour unions because of the membership fee, which in Slovakia represents 1% of employee's net wage," he said. "It's four beers for them, so they prefer to go to a bar and drink up their benefits in one or two hours."
Some foreign companies in Slovakia, like Pepsi Cola, do not have any unions at all. For the most part, employees have been kept calm and satisfied. However, according to Pavel Uhrinčať, human resources manager at Pepsi-Cola Slovakia, "this can only happen if a company provides enough benefits for its employees."
21. May 1998 at 0:00 | Slavomír Danko