BUS drivers and employees of bus companies announced on May 25 that they will go on strike from June 2 as part of a dispute over travel benefits that drivers and their families have enjoyed for the past 60 years. However, on May 27 it seemed that most of Slovakia’s eight regions, whose subsidies to bus companies help fund the perks, may avoid strikes. The action, organised by the KOVO union, is supported by about 8,000 employees at bus companies. The strike received widespread support in a nationwide ballot of union members announced on May 14. The situation escalated after the Transport Ministry failed to issue a directive providing for employee perks for bus companies workers in 2010.
In late May the president of the Bratislava Self-Governing Region, Pavol Frešo, called on the bus drivers and bus company employees to refrain from strike action and offered some hope that their travel benefits could be preserved.
Frešo said that he was open to discussion about continued travel discounts for employees of bus companies and their families, but ruled out continued benefits for 225 employees of the Transport Ministry and hundreds of their children and family, along with other clerks and unionists, the Sme daily wrote. The pool of people eligible for perks was defined by Transport Minister Ľubomír Vážny, a nominee of the ruling Smer party.
Frešo will once again meet bus companies on June 1, a day before the announced strike. Meanwhile, neighbouring Trnava Region also expressed its willingness to negotiate with the bus operators and Nitra Region is also working on negotiations. Žilina Region has agreed to pay for the benefits to continue, while agreement also appeared to be looming in Košice Region.
Banská Bystrica Region head Vladimír Maňka agreed to discounted fares for bus drivers and bus company employees on May 27, thus deflecting the threat of strike in his region.
Yet it seemed that the strike would go ahead in Prešov Region, which has already said a resounding no to the perks. The union said that all 248 employees of the Prešov SAD bus company would go on strike, the SITA newswire wrote.
Earlier this month the Association of Bus Transporters, which unites almost all the bus companies in Slovakia, said that the employers in fact agree with all of KOVO’s demands, but say the union is simply knocking at the wrong door.
The bus companies argue that pressure should be put on regional governments to incorporate the cost of the perks into the subsidies which they provide for public transport. The regions subsidise local bus transport based on so-called contracts on activities of public interest with the bus companies.
“These employee discounts have existed for 60 years and were presented by employers as a huge benefit for employees,” Anton Mifka, deputy chairman of KOVO, told The Slovak Spectator in an earlier interview.
31. May 2010 at 0:00 | Beata Balogová