ESS - Economic and Social Council of Slovenia
- ANJA KOPAČ MRAK
- Natalija Berlec
The Economic and Social Council of the Republic of Slovenia (ESC) was established in June 1994 by social partners – employers' associations, trade unions and the government of the Republic of Slovenia – when the Wage Policy Agreement for the non-government sector was adopted. It is the highest-level body representing the social partners in Slovenia. The Council’s working procedures are governed by the Rules of Procedure of the Economic and Social Council, adopted in 1994 and last amended in 2007.
The ESC of Slovenia is organised following the International Labour Organisation pattern of tripartism. It is a tripartite body in which the Government plays an active role as the third partner besides the employers’ and trade unions’ associations.
The ESC was founded as the main consultative and coordinative institution for social dialogue in Slovenia. It was primarily set up to deal with issues related to the social agreement and wage policy, social policy, labour relations, employment and employment related topics, industrial relations (system of collective bargaining, etc), prices and taxes, the economic system and economic policy, legal security plus other areas that are relevant for social partners. As well as dealing with areas requiring tripartite agreement, the ESC can also examine other matters of an economic and social nature.
In addition to its advisory role, the ESC has a key role in negotiations for social agreements and, until some years ago, also wage policy agreements, which were adopted within the sphere of its activities. So far, four social agreements have been adopted through the ESC, the latest in October 2007. This agreement, obtained after eighteen months of negotiations, applied until 2009. After that period has elapsed the social partners were of the opinion that in the time of economic crisis a new social pact would be needed, but due to very different expectations of the three groups it has not been realized so far.
The ESC examines draft legislation covering the entire spectrum of economic and social relations between employers and employees. In this respect, the 1999 agreement reached between the social partners on the pension system reform and the 2002 Labour relations act are considered major achievements. In 2006 amendments to the Labour relationships act came under discussion between the social partners and the government and after long and tough negotiations consensus was achieved in June 2007. On the other hand the new proposal of pension reform in 2010 did not get support of the trade unions, even after long negotiations, while the new amendments to the labour relations act are still waiting to be discussed by the social partners.
The ESC also examines strategic development papers put forward by the government, such as Slovenia's development strategy and the economic and social reform package to enhance the competitiveness of the Slovenian economy. The ESC was also consulted on the reform programme for the implementation of the Lisbon Strategy and thereafter on the yearly reports on the implementation of the programme. In 2011 the ESC discussed the National reform program, connected to the Europe 2020 Strategy, and was acquainted with the Euro pact.
A practice has been developed that the Government consults the social partners already in the early stages of preparation of drafting of documents. This work is done mostly in the expert groups, which all the social partners consider very useful.
The ESC is also active regarding international cooperation with European Economic and Social Committee, other national economic and social councils, ILO, etc.
According to the latest amendments to the Rules of Procedure, each of the categories of social partner and the government can have up to eight members, and alternate members, within the ESC. The ESC is currently made up of 24 members, and their alternates. The initial number of 15 members (5 per group) was changed due to the increased number of trade unions’ associations, fulfilling the criterion of representativeness at the national level.
The government is represented by six Ministers (of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities; of Finance; of Economic Development and Tehnology; of Public Administration; of Education, Science and Sport; of Health) and the Deputy Director of the Institute of Macroeconomic Analysis and Development. The employee and employers’ associations group is made up for the most part of the chairs of their respective organizations or other persons of high rank.
The President of the ESC and his deputy are appointed upon nomination of partners. The groups take turns in nominating the president and his deputy. Each of the group has a right to one year term of office. Within each of the social partner group the members can agree to subdivide this into shorter periods, but only the trade union confederations have made use of this option so far. The employees' organizations take their presidency in turns. The current ESC President is the Minister, Mrs. Anja Kopač Mrak, Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Oppotunities.
The ESC usually meets in plenary sessions, with meetings held either at the request of one of the groups of social partners or at least once a month. The ESC president convenes and chairs the sessions. The agenda is set by the president, following his own plans as well as the proposals from other members or groups as a whole.
The sessions are closed to the public and media.
The ESC can also set up standing and temporary working groups to deal with individual projects or to handle the technical groundwork leading up to decisions. These working groups are usually made up of representatives of social partners and the government, sometimes also of independent experts.
The ESC produces opinions, position papers, proposals and recommendations on the various issues it deals with. These are submitted to the relevant ministry, the government, parliament and/or other institutions concerned. Although the decisions of the ESC are binding for the institutions represented in the Council, according to the Rules of Procedure, there are no legal sanctions for not following the opinion of the ESC.
Decisions in the ESC are taken by consensus, with each of the social partners and the government carrying one vote. If consensus or unanimity cannot be reached amongst the partners even after negotiation, the ESC may not formally adopt a common position on the issue. If consensus is not reached amongst the members of one of the social partners' groups, that group will engage in separate negotiations to endeavour to reach a consensus.
Secretariat and financing
The ESC has neither a special body as secretariat nor a special budget.
The ESC administration is run by the government, more specifically by its secretariat-general, which also ensures that suitable working conditions and any necessary technical support are provided.
The secretary general of the ESC is a civil servant appointed by the ESC and paid by the government.
The funds for running the ESC are provided by the government.