New Trade Union Founded at Volkswagen Slovakia

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New trade union organisation founded in Volkswagen Bratislava (photo by TASR)

Bratislava, October 13 (TASR) – Unionists at Volkswagen Slovakia led by Zoroslav Smolinsky have already founded a new trade union to which members of the original OZ KOVO trade union branch have started to switch, TASR learnt on Thursday.

OZ KOVO decided to scrap Volkswagen’s original trade union branch on Tuesday (October 10). Smolinsky sees OZ KOVO’s ambition to take control over his trade union behind this, as well as efforts to gain possession of its assets.

Smolinsky said that dozens of employees joined him at the front of the entrance to the Bratislava plant in a show of support. The new trade union was founded on September 18 due to persisting conflicts with OZ KOVO chairman Emil Machyna. Workers can now unsubscribe from the original trade union branch and fill in an application for the new, modern Volkswagen trade union, he said.

“Even though there will be two trade unions at the company, the management is obliged to communicate with the stronger one,” stated Smolinsky, adding that pressure must come from below on the trade union leadership, rather than the trade union leadership putting pressure on its branches and their members.

The trade union branch at Volkswagen is the largest in Slovakia, with 78 percent of the around 11,000-strong workforce as members. Smolinsky expects most of them to join the new trade union, which is open to cooperation with other organisations and companies but won’t actively approach them. “Our priority is to protect our own employees,” said Smolinsky.

Smolinsky said that the company management called on unionists to leave the premises of the plant and take a day off on Thursday. According to Smolinsky, this was simply due to Machyna putting pressure on the management. However, the management later revised its decision. “The management declared that it won’t intervene in the dispute between OZ KOVO and us,” stressed Smolinsky. A joint meeting of representatives of the Volkswagen management and the old and new trade unions is scheduled for Monday (October 17).

The assets of the original trade union branch at Volkswagen amount to over €1 million, said its vice-chair Jolana Julkeova. A court will decide what will happen to these assets after the branch ceases to exist. The new trade union has appealed to a court in response to OZ KOVO’s actions.

Volkswagen unionists view the activities of the Machyna-led trade union as a culmination of years of effort to take control over trade union branches against the will of their members. Smolinsky gained 4,401 votes in elections in May, while his rival supported by Machyna attracted a mere 492.

OZ KOVO claims that every basic trade union branch must respect valid rules and regulations. Smolinsky’s trade union has allegedly violated these by excluding one of its members. “Unfortunately, the committee decided not to respect them [the rules], so we had to act as we did. However, this doesn’t mean that we want to lead the branch towards its cessation; quite the opposite is true. We wanted to stabilise the situation and seek compromise solutions,” OZ KOVO vice-chair Monika Benedekova told TASR.