EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Czech Republic: EIRO CAR on “The effect of the Information and Consultation Directive on Industrial Relations in the EU Member States five years after its transposition“

About

Country: 
Czech Republic
Author: 
Hana Geissler
Institution: 
Research Institute for Labour and Social Affairs

Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

In the Czech Republic the employees’ rights to information and consultation are embedded in the Labour Code. Most frequently trade unions act as I&C bodies. Provisions on information and consultation and governance of these processes beyond the scope of the Labour Code appear in a growing number of collective agreements. Although employee representatives are often provided with information as prescribed by the Labour Code, their influence on the ultimate decision by the management is not always a very strong one.

Question 1: Trends in the incidence of undertaking- and/or establishment-level information and consultation bodies

(a) Using official statistics where possible, please provide annual data for the years 2005-2009 (inclusive) on the number and proportion (%) of undertakings and/or establishments which have an information and consultation (I&C) body or equivalent.

Directive 2002/14/EC which establishes a general framework for information and consultation of employees was transposed into Czech legislation by Act no. 262/2006 Coll., Labour Code, articles 276-299. In the case that there is no employee representative in the company, the employer must negotiate directly with each employee.

Czech workers have a possibility to establish employee councils since 2000. However, this type of representing employees’ interests has not spread much and occurs rarely. Statistics in this respect do not exist. With regard to the fact that employee representatives for OHS are not in the focus of this questionnaire, the answers will be mostly linked to trade unions.

(b) Where possible, please provide data to show trends in the uptake of I&C bodies by:

According to the European Company Survey, in 2009 an institutionalized employee representation – in case of CZ a trade union - was present in 17.6% of Czech companies. There is also a trend of concentration of trade unions in big companies in particular. In case of small enterprises with less than 50 employees this share is 12.3%, in companies of a medium size (51 to 250 employees) 46.0% and in big companies (+250 employees) 74.4%. In case of industry trade unions can be found in 15.5% of companies, in case of services then in 18.8% (Eurofound 2010).

Data on number of companies where a trade union is operating are available only for some of the trade unions united in the biggest confederation of Czech-Moravian Trade Union Confederation (ČMKOS). Therefore, only a trend can be captured: the number of employers where a trade union operates has been declining in the long run, and most of the trade unions are present in big companies (+ 100 employees).

Table 1: Number of trade unions at a company level on behalf of ČMKOS in 2005-2009
 

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

Number of employers where a trade union operates

.

6,793

.

6,654

.

6,645

.

6,380

.

6,132

Of which:          
under 50 employees

995

1,046

1,030

1,009

938

51 to 100 employees

898

895

854

819

804

Source: Report on results of company-level collective bargaining in 2009, ČMKOS 2009.

  1. size of undertakings/establishments in terms of employment levels (i.e. under 50 employees, 50-99 employees, 100-199 employees; 200-499 employees, 500 or more employees or other appropriate size bands used in national statistics)
  2. sector (broadly defined, i.e. industry/manufacturing, private services, public services).

(c) Please provide information on the extent of I&C arrangements in:

  1. smaller undertakings (those with fewer than 50 employees)
  2. public administration.

(d) What factors explain any increase/decrease in the incidence of I&C bodies (e.g. economic climate, legislative change, other)?

The number of trade unions in companies has been declining in the long run. There are more reasons for this trend. The major one is that older workers form the majority of membership of trade unions and when they retire there are no followers. In the last years, also different types restructurings and bankruptcies contributed to the decrease in trade union density in the companies.

See also 2d.

Question 2: Procedures for establishing I&C bodies

(a) What are the procedures for establishing I&C bodies in your country? For example, are I&C bodies mandatory (i.e. employers are obliged by law to establish them), or is their establishment dependent on employees/trade unions triggering statutory procedures? In the latter case, who can initiate the procedure? Is there a specified level of employee support required?

Almost as a rule, a trade union is established by a bottom-up approach, i.e. by the employees themselves. There are two ways to establish trade unions – employees may ask for help by a relevant union organization operating in the given sector or to establish a trade union independently, following the Act no. 83/1990 Coll., on association of citizens (Kubínková et al. 2007: 86-87). Already three workers can establish a trade union.

An employee council establishment and employee representatives for OHS are governed by the Labour Code. The election is declared by the employer based on a written proposal signed by at least one third of employees, representatives are elected for 3 years. The position of the employee council as well as the employee representative for H&S is markedly weaker compared with that one of a trade union (e.g. they lack juridical subjectivity, they cannot bargain collectively, take part in the joint decisions making and there are differences also in consultation competences).

(b) Please supply any available data on the extent to which I&C bodies have been:

  1. requested by employees
  2. requested by trade unions
  3. initiated unilaterally by employers.

No data is available. Nevertheless, as mentioned above, a trade union establishment is initiated by employees. There are cases when an employer views a trade union establishment negatively and tries to prevent the establishment (which, by law, he/ she is not entitled to do) (Kubínková et al. 2007: 88).

(c) Have the national government and/or the social partners in your country actively promoted the establishment of I&C bodies? If so, how have they done this?

In the context of a constant decrease in members and trade unions, trade unions at sectoral as well as national levels promote an increase in capacity building for social dialogue and the establishment of new trade unions. Via various communication channels (web pages, media, etc.) they carry out awareness-raising campaigns on the advantages of trade union membership. One of the latest projects of the two largest trade union confederations in the Czech Republic – ČMKOS and the Association of Independent Trade Unions (ASO) is a project “Social dialogue reinforcement – services for employees” financially supported by the European Social Fund. The project aims, inter alia, at building consulting services for employees in the areas of labour law and social dialogue in regional centres, completing an portal informing employees about social dialogue (www.socialnidialog.cz), or establishing a telephone info-line for trade unions, employees and also employers.

The attitude of the Czech government towards trade unions depends on the governing party. Left-wing parties generally treat trade unions and social dialogue with more favour. However, the promotion of the establishment of new I&C bodies does not fall under Governmental agenda.

(d) What explains the absence of I&C bodies in some undertakings/establishments in which I&C bodies are supposedly mandatory or the statutory right to trigger their introduction applies?

In the 90s the concept of employee association suffered from the downgrading of trade unions in the communist regime when trade unions were linked to the political party and membership was obligatory. Consequently, interest in associating was weak after the revolution. Trade unions survived in big companies, which underwent transformations, however, only few were established in new companies in the developing private sector. Trade unions started regaining legitimacy in the last decade. Nevertheless, trade unions as well as their members have not experienced any significant growth. Two main reasons for this situation are that (Kroupa et al. 2004) few employees want to establish and lead trade unions and also, in the employees’ opinion, trade unions are not needed.

Question 3: Constitutional provisions

(a) Are the structure, rights and functioning of I&C bodies in your country determined by:

  1. statutory requirements that apply to all establishments/undertakings
  2. organisation-specific agreements/arrangements that may differ from the statutory provisions, providing the scope for organisations to vary the design of the I&C body and the processes of information provision and consultation
  3. a mixture of the two.

At the most general level, freedom of association belongs to the essential rights guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. Specific conditions which determine a trade union establishment are prescribed in the Act no. 83/1990 Coll., on association of citizens. The rights to collective bargaining, to conclude collective agreements and to strike are regulated by the Act no. 2/1991 Coll., on collective bargaining. Last but least, the Act no. 262/2006 Coll., Labour Code, governs other aspects of social dialogue at company level, employer-trade union relations and the rights of employee representatives.

The legal regulation is fundamental for functioning and position of I&C bodies in the CZ. Collective agreements, particularly those at company level, may expand trade union rights beyond the scope prescribed by law, however, for the benefit of employees only.

(b) To what extent can and do organisation-specific agreements/arrangements differ from national statutory requirements on I&C? What motivates the parties to introduce such agreements/arrangements? Please summarise any available data on the provisions of organisation-specific agreements/arrangements.

According to Information System on Working Conditions (ISSP), a regular annual survey on wage and working conditions negotiated in collective agreements administrated by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MoLSA), in 2009 processes of information were regulated in 68.5% of collective agreements, consultation in 59.9%. Specific arrangements on information going beyond the scope of the Labour Code were agreed in 22.2% of collective agreements, consulting then in 12.2%. These numbers have been growing in the last years. However, a relatively low incidence, in case of consultation in particular, shows that these processes are primarily based on statutory regulation in the Labour Code.

Table 2: Specific arrangements on informing and consulting a trade union agreed in collective agreements, in % (2007-2009)
 

2007

2008

2009

Arrangement of detailed conditions for the process of informing.

52.2

65.8

68.5

The scope of informing agreed, going beyond the scope of the Labour Code.

16.7

20.7

22.2

Arrangement of detailed conditions for the process of consulting.

43.4

55.2

59.9

The scope of consulting agreed, going beyond the scope of the Labour Code.

10.3

14.0

12.2

Source: Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Information system on working conditions in 2009 (Informační systém o pracovních podmínkách 2009)

(c) Are the terms of organisation-specific agreements/arrangements enforceable? What procedures – e.g. complaint to external administrative or judicial authorities (please specify which) – are available for this purpose?

Specific provisions agreed in collective agreements are subject to the control of Labour Inspectorates pursuant to the Act no. 251/2005 Coll., on Labour Inspection. Employees or employee representatives may address this authority with a motion in cases where employees’ rights are violated. In case of a detected failure, employee representatives often utilise this option.

In case of insufficient cooperation of the employer and employees’ representative – including, among other matters, employees’ rights for information and consultation – the Labour Inspectorates may impose to the employer a fine up to CZK 200,000 and order a remedy.

Question 4: The main subjects for I&C

(a) What types of information are regularly provided by senior management to I&C bodies? Please give examples.

The Labour Code, section 279, clearly defines topics of which the employer must inform employees, eventually via their representatives:

a) Employer’s economic and financial situation and its probable development;b) Employer’s activities, their probable development, impacts on the environment and his ecological measures; c) Legal status of the employer and its alterations;d) Basic issues regarding working conditions and their alterations; ;e) Matters which are a subject of consultations (see 4b);f) Measures assuring equal treatment of male and female employees and discrimination prevention;g) Employees with fixed-term contract shall be informed about the offer of available jobs for an indeterminate period;h) Occupational health and safety; i) Matters determined by the provision on establishment of the European Employees’ Council; j) Temporary agency workers shall be informed about available jobs.

In the case that a trade union operates at workplace, it must be additionally informed on the development of wages or salaries, average pay and its various components, including a breakdown by occupational groups, unless otherwise agreed (section 287).

(b) What issues are typically the subject of consultation between management and employee representatives? Please give examples.

A list of topics for consultation is included in the section 280:

a) Probable economic growth of the employer;b) Intended structural changes of the employer, especially measures related to collective redundancies; c) The up-to-date number and structure of employees, probable development of employment, basic issues regarding working conditions and their alterations;d) Transmission of employer’s activities to another employer; e) Occupational health and safety; f) Matters determined by the provision on establishment of the European Works Council.

The employer must discuss the following topics with the trade union (section 287):

a) Employer’s economic situation;b) Volume and pace of work;c) Changes in the work arrangement;d) Systems of employee reward systems and their appraisal;e) System of employee training and education;f) Measures creating conditions for employment of natural persons, particularly the young, people caring for a child under the age of 15, and handicapped, including matters in terms of employee care, measures to improve work hygiene and working environment, organisation of social, cultural and sports events to meet employees’ needs; and g) Other measures affecting a rather high number of employees.

(c) What issues are typically raised by employee representatives themselves? Please give examples.

The list of issues for information and consultation in the Labour Code seems to correspond to issues actually discussed by the parties concerned. Employee representatives see priorities in the employer’s economic situation and planned structural changes. Also OHS topics and, in case of trade unions, issues related to employee rewarding systems are on the agenda.

(d) Since the onset of the recession, to what extent have I&C bodies been a vehicle for dialogue and consultation over management decisions concerning restructuring and recession-related developments? Please provide a general overview with evidence and examples.

Trade unions in particular play an important role in the restructuring and bankruptcy of companies, but also generally in situations of economic difficulties and collective redundancies. The trade unions´ role is thus one of mutual exchange of information, and also of cooperation with the Labour Office which can assist in solving unfavourable situations.

During the recession, trade unions were involved e.g. in concluding agreements with employer on “partial unemployment”. A cooperation between employers and trade unions has been reported many times. For instance, in Škoda Auto, the largest company in the Czech Republic, a four-day working week was applied to the company’s regular employees (24.5 thousand people). Pursuant to the agreement between the employer and the trade union, employees were paid 75% of the average wage.

Question 5: The nature and extent of the I&C process

(a) How often do I&C bodies typically meet with management? Is it common practice for special meetings of the I&C body to be called to consider urgent or important matters? If so, on what issues?

It is common that the employer meets employee representatives in regular intervals (monthly or quarterly), annually for bargaining over collective agreement and ad hoc, as needed. Specification of time, method of transfer of information, rules for mutual negotiation are usually provided in collective agreements and depend on the company’s practice.

(b) How does consultation take place? For example, is information on proposed changes provided by management so that employee representatives can prepare a considered view? Do managers provide a reasoned response to employee representatives’ opinions? Examples of good and poor practice would be helpful.

Pursuant to the Labour Code, the employer is obliged to provide information and consulting sufficiently in advance and in an adequate manner so that on the basis of the information provided employees could express their views and the employer could take them into account before the measure is taken.

The quality of consultation process varies case by case. Data in this respect do not exist. In reality it happens that some employers try to avoid their duties, by failing to inform employees and their representatives and to consult with them at all, or they tend to substitute consulting by informing, often even after the implementation of a specific measure, not prior to it, as prescribed by law (Kubínková et. al 2007).

(c) Is information usually provided on a confidential basis to the I&C body before management decisions are taken and announced? Are there examples of I&C not taking place due to confidentiality considerations?

The Labour Code defines the term ‘confidential information’ as information which in case of its dissemination it may harm employer’s activities. However, information prescribed for informing and consultation by the Labour Code cannot be regarded as confidential. Employees’ representatives must maintain confidentiality of all the information marked as confidential by the employer. The operation of confidentiality obligation is laid down to be one year after terminating membership in the given I&C body.

Generally, employers follow the duty prescribed by the Labour Code, providing confidential information beyond that scope not quite frequently. If employers provide confidential information to some of the I&C bodies, the respective time limit for confidentiality maintenance applies.

(d) Please outline what guarantees and protections employee representatives usually have, e.g. time off work, training, material and financial resources, facilities, protection against dismissal/ discrimination, access to workers.

Pursuant to the Labour Code, any discrimination for the performance of the employees’ representative is prohibited. To pursue their activities employee representatives are entitled for a time-off, either paid (e.g. at informing and consulting or at collective bargaining for trade unionists), or unpaid (e.g. participation at meetings, conferences and congresses). Furthermore, the employer is obliged to provide financial and material support for their activities.

As for trade unions, conditions for the release of the union official from his/her job are stated in the Labour Code and the form of rewarding can be negotiated in the collective agreement. The employer must provide an H&S training for the trade union or the employee representative for H&S, another type of training for union officials is often provided by trade union federations.

Table 3: Specific arrangements supporting activities of trade unions agreed in collective agreements, in % (2007-2009)
 

2007

2008

2009

Collection of membership fees by wage deductions

86.4

87.6

88.6

Payment of employee insurance on behalf of officials released from their jobs in the long run

25.9

19.3

19.4

Schedule for union officials’ job release with a wage compensation

33.9

37.2

40.8

Specified conditions for performance of trade union activities (use of employer’s rooms, employer’s contribution for the trade union activity, Internet access, etc.)

75.4

80.5

83.5

Source: Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Information system on working conditions in 2009 (Informační systém o pracovních podmínkách 2009)

(e) Can employee representatives seek external advice on how to handle difficult topics for consultation (e.g. from trade unions, external consultants)? In the case of the latter, who pays?

Yes, they can. It is common in difficult situations for trade unions to contact the relevant union federation which provides free consulting and legal services for its members. Using an external consultant is probably less common (especially by small companies), it depends on the particular situation and also on funds which the given trade union has at disposal.

Question 6: Practical outcomes of consultation

(a) What evidence is there, if any, of the consultation process resulting in the modification of management decisions and/or the process or timetable for their implementation? Please give an overview of the impact of consultation with examples.

Regarding this topic no survey has been carried out in the CZ. Nevertheless, the European Company Survey suggests that whereas an above-average percentage of employee representatives are informed and consulted on various topics, the employees’ representatives do not consider that they have a strong influence on ultimate decisions by the management (Eurofound 2010).

(b) How many complaints per year concerning the operation of I&C procedures (e.g. employers not consulting in circumstances where consultation is obligatory) have been lodged with administrative or judicial authorities since 2005? Who were the claimants and what were the key issues? What proportion of these applications were upheld? What sanctions were imposed?

As already mentioned in subsection 3c, Labour Inspectorates are in charge of control the employees’ right for information and consultation. Labour Inspectorates monitor problems in cooperation between the employer and I&C body and based on the minimum of detected faults (see Table 4) this area seems to be one of the least troublesome. Neither fines imposed are probably high in this area.

Table 4: Faults detected in cooperation between the employer and I&C body (2006-2009)
 

2006

2007

2008

2009

Faults detected in cooperation between the employer and I&C body

0

17

17

29

Source: State Labour Inspection Office (SUIP), Annual summary reports on results of inspections carried out by Labour Inspectorates, 2006-2009

A civil court proceeding is another option of how employees may enforce their right for informing and consulting. Since recently, the proceedings related to the enforcement of right for information and consultation are exempt from legal charges. However, proceedings regarding disputes on I&C rights are exceptional. To examine all the circumstances would be very demanding, complicated and lengthy, therefore neither employees nor their representatives utilise this possibility in practice (Nekolová 2010).

Question 7: Relationship between I&C bodies and other forms of employee voice

(a) Can, and if so do, trade unions play a part in the establishment of I&C bodies and in their operation? Do external trade union officers often sit on I&C bodies? How common is it for I&C bodies to include both union and non-union employee representatives?

A trade union as such is an I&C body, the role of trade unions in this field is fundamental. External trade union officers, especially those from federations, can be consulted. Both union and non-union employee representatives may exist in parallel, but in practice it is unusual.

(b) Is there any overlap between the remit of I&C bodies and trade union-based collective bargaining? If so, how are such issues resolved?

In practice, no overlap of this kind does occur.

(c) Is the consultation required by the collective redundancies/transfer of undertakings Directives carried out via I&C bodies, trade unions or other employee representatives?

Yes, pursuant to the Labour Code these areas are the subject of informing and consulting. Collective redundancies/transfer of undertakings are topics which employee representatives, and trade unions in particular, are engaged in substantially.

(d) Is the use of direct forms of employee involvement by management through such things as team briefings seen as complementary to or in competition with the I&C body?

If there is an I&C body operating in the company, a direct involvement of employees is not likely to be very common.

Question 8: Views of the social partners

(a) What are the attitudes of the main employer and trade union organisations your country towards (i) the value or necessity of I&C bodies and (ii) the operation of I&C bodies in practice, especially in a recession?

The national social partners value the role of I&C bodies - in reality mainly trade union organisations - and their operation in the recession positively. ČMKOS naturally supports and advocates trade unions at company level. Employers’ organisations respect the position of trade unions and value their contribution to the social consensus in companies, especially during the recession.

(b) Have the social partners, jointly or separately, conducted any review of the operation of the national regulatory framework governing I&C? What is their assessment of its effectiveness? Is there any pressure from the social partners for reform?

Social partners neither jointly nor separately do prepare any review of national regulatory framework. Trade unions are relatively satisfied with the regulation. Employers’ organisations would be in favour of simplification and generalisation of rather detailed legal regulation. They also find some of the provisions of the Labour Code inexact what could cause disputes at the workplace between parties.

Commentary by national correspondents

Even though theoretically each employee is entitled to information and consultation, this right is undoubtedly better asserted in enterprises where an employee representative exists. By way of an estimate, trade unions represent only about 30% of employees and operate primarily in large companies. In the context of the new Labour Code from 2006, the significance of collective bargaining has grown markedly and this change is also reflected in sections of collective agreements dealing with I&C rights. However, the provisions of the Labour Code cover the majority of relevant areas for I&C and the space left to the negotiation of special I&C arrangements in the collective agreements is not very large. Although employee representatives are provided with information and are consulted as the Labour Code prescribes, their influence on the ultimate management decision is likely to be of a rather complementary nature.

References:

Hana Geissler, Research Institute for Labour and Social Affairs