EMPLOYEES of the firms Kali Agro and Slo.VI, both of which make stockings in Hencovce, eastern Slovakia, and are owned by the same Italian owner, went on strike for higher wages on August 24. The majority of the employees at the plants signed up in support of the strike. They decided to take the action because they say they are poorly paid and are dissatisfied with the outcome of collective bargaining. The average net monthly wage in the two textile companies stands at €260, which is equivalent to €320 gross, the SITA newswire wrote.
“We were negotiating with the Italian investors today [August 24] too, but the negotiations ended in failure; they were not willing to accept our demands,” Jana Polaščíková, the chairwoman of the trade union at both plants, said, adding that the union was demanding a pay rise for all employees, not just production workers.
The OZ KOVO metalworkers’ trade union has been negotiating a collective agreement with the employer since March, but management did not agree with the union’s demands during negotiations in the presence of a mediator appointed by the Labour Ministry. The company says it has made considerable concessions. According to the Pravda daily, workers sought a 2-percent rise in wages, plus a variable component of €25 for meeting production targets and a further €25 variable component for 100-percent attendance, €10 for working shifts, and benefits twice a year. The company refused. The Italian owner offered to increase wages by one percent and set the variable components of wages at €25 for 100-percent attendance and €15 for meeting production targets, according to SITA.
Apart from their wages, the strikers had earlier objected to conditions in the production halls, where they said lack of air-conditioning meant summer temperatures sometimes reached 41 degrees Celsius, according Polaščíková. Also, the Labour Inspectorate dealt with a case when the owners deducted between €40 and €45 from employees’ wages when they rested for a few minutes. Moreover, employees had to sign a statement acknowledging a violation of work discipline.
The situation in the company worsened on August 25, when according to eyewitnesses, Mirko Bernuzzi, the Italian owner, attempted to drive his car into a group of workers and the president of OZ KOVO Emil Machyna, who also filed a complaint against Bernuzzi. Bernuzzi denied the accusations, saying he was just parking his car.
On August 26 the strike continued with as many as 98 percent of the companies’ 390 employees taking part. According to Jozef Balica of OZ KOVO, this is the first strike for higher wages in eastern Slovakia and enjoys wide support from local people.
“Also, the employees of sister company VSK Humenné, which has the same owners, are pondering a form of solidarity strike,” Balica said, as reported by SITA.
According to Polaščíková, wages in VSK Humenné are €100 per month higher than in Hencovce.
30. Aug 2010 at 0:00 | Compiled by Spectator staff