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Hauliers threaten with strike

HAULIERS in Slovakia appear set to go on strike over changes which, as of January 2014, increased the number of tolled roads. The Slovak Union of Motor Carriers (UNAS) has announced it will issue a general strike due to concerns that the Transport Ministry will not fulfil its promise to make changes to the toll system. The deadline was set on March 7.

HAULIERS in Slovakia appear set to go on strike over changes which, as of January 2014, increased the number of tolled roads. The Slovak Union of Motor Carriers (UNAS) has announced it will issue a general strike due to concerns that the Transport Ministry will not fulfil its promise to make changes to the toll system. The deadline was set on March 7.

The ministry however says UNAS has no reason to strike, as all of the association’s proposals have been accepted so far. Moreover, the government hinted that the strike could be politically motivated, as one UNAS representative has openly supported presidential candidate Helena Mezenská of Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO).

“After repeated insistence to solve and guarantee the agreed upon conditions, the hauliers concluded they are being duped,” UNAS wrote in the press release, as quoted by the SITA newswire.

It added that the Transport Ministry is presenting other versions of the agreement, but is unable to show the protocol from their meeting, which the hauliers view as an effort to “outlast the upcoming [presidential] elections”, SITA wrote.

The hauliers, however, have not specified the extent of the strike, when it will begin or what form it will take. Róbert Huran, deputy chair of UNAS, said that if they revealed anything, there would be a risk “that our aims will be marred”, as reported by SITA.

State Secretary of the Transport Ministry Viktor Stromček responded that UNAS has no reason to strike since the ministry agreed on all their requirements discussed at the February 20 meeting. The agreement included, for example, no fees for roads in urban areas as of March 15, as well as no fees for lower-class roads and for non-tolled first-class roads, and making the fines equal to the European average.

The ministry also said that it has provided the hauliers with all the protocols from the meetings and denied claims that it has been changing anything in the agreements. The ministry says that the problem is that they refused to add one issue to the protocol, which it says was not even discussed at the meeting, SITA wrote.

Stromček referred to the requirement to impose a zero toll on a bypass in Bratislava, which was to be the only section of road in an urban area with a toll. According to him, the hauliers presented this demand only after the meeting ended.

The problem was resolved on March 4 during the meeting with representatives of the Association of Road Transport Operators of the Slovak Republic (ČESMAD). Though UNAS initiated the talks, it did not attend, SITA wrote.

Meanwhile, UNAS said it will submit a criminal complaint to the General Prosecutor’s Office over a video recording from the meeting with the Transport Ministry, part of which was broadcast by the media on March 4. Huran said that the recording was made without their consent and that it was purposely edited, as reported by SITA.

He added that they will probably also turn to international institutions.

By the time The Slovak Spectator went to print on March 6, it was not certain whether the hauliers would initiate the strike. The Transport Ministry however informed that same day that the regulation concerning roads in urban areas will be published in the collection of laws on March 13, as reported by SITA.

Part of political campaign?

According to Prime Minister Robert Fico, the hauliers are being used as part of the political goals of a certain presidential candidate. Fico himself is running in the elections, scheduled for March 15.

“In my opinion, yesterday’s [March 4] revelation about the motive of a strike of some kind represents something that needs to be condemned,” Fico said, as quoted by the TASR newswire, referring to the earlier confession of UNAS chair Milan Laurinec, who supports Mezenská.

He added that the Transport Ministry is currently working on specific legislation that will include the changes required by hauliers.

Also, Transport Minister Ján Počiatek says that UNAS still has new requirements, but refuses to attend the discussions about them.

“This is a clear case of abuse of UNAS road hauliers for the political goals of some special interest group, linked to a specific presidential candidate,” Počiatek said, as quoted by TASR.

Hauliers, though, deny any political motives for the strike. Laurinec, who even helped Mezenská with collecting signatures for her presidential bid, has meanwhile withdrawn from UNAS, saying he will not represent it until after the elections, SITA wrote.

Municipalities concerned

The Association of Towns and Villages of Slovakia (ZMOS) is concerned about some of UNAS’ demands. The requirement not to toll lower-class roads will only contribute to the further destruction of the roads and threaten the lives, health and property of the people who live near them, reads the press release sent to media.

ZMOS says it is prepared to attend negotiations over this problem, which should also be attended by the Transport Ministry and the representatives of the hauliers.

“We expect that they will result in measures in favour of maintaining the quality of the lives of the people living in the affected villages and towns, and also in favour of doing business in the transport sector,” ZMOS chair Jozef Dvonč said.

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