On 16 October fifteen trade union representatives from Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany and Hungary met in Slovakia to discuss and share their experiences with the Austrian construction company Strabag. Also present were representatives of the BWI, EFBWW, and FES. The event was sponsored by FES.
Strabag employs around 75.000 workers and operates in sixteen countries. The company is predominantly located in Germany and Austria; however, they also operate throughout Central and Eastern Europe as well as Latin America.
Although the participants found the discussions engaging, they recognized that since the national legislation of each of the countries differed, it was difficult to compare the industrial relations of the respective countries. Despite this, the unions still found some initiatives such as the Incident Insurance that the German union, IGBAU benefited was something that unions could emulate in their countries. To do this the unions agreed a coordinated negotiating strategy would be useful.
The IOZ of Slovakia shared their experience in organizing 150 members in Strabag with the support of the BWI and IG BAU. The union stated that the main challenge to organizing workers at Strabag is its highly fragmented workforce.
Coen van der Veer BWI Regional Representative for Europe concluded, “The only way to maintain, defend and enhance the working conditions is to grow as unions because at the negotiation table numbers do matter. We need to learn from the experience of unions in Slovakia and strengthen our organizing efforts.”