Trade unions

In general, only limited numbers of Slovak journalists have declared membership in journalism associations. In late 2016, it could be estimated that perhaps only 10 percent of Slovak journalists (if we exclude students, pensioners and freelancers) were members of the largest journalism organisation, the Slovak Syndicate of Journalists (SSN).

The largest journalism organisation, the SSN, has always been somewhere between (weak and initially informal) trade union organisation and professional organisation. Since 2015, SSN in its Statute defines itself as both “trade union” and “professional (guild)” organisation. However, a more detailed analysis shows that the trade union role of the SSN is rather limited. Formally, a regular member of SSN can ask for support in labour conflicts as well as ask for social help according to Statute of the Social Fund. Social support can be provided in a form of reimbursement of medicines (max 50 percent of purchasing price, but also max €50,00), then a regular member can ask for financial support during an unemployment period (must be registered at the labour office for at least six months and income per family member can not be higher that 1.5 minimum of standard of living). The support during unemployment can be of maximum 300,00 €. Both types of support can be provided only once in 12 months. In addition, there is the possibility of ad hoc financial help during personal emergency situations which are subject to a special approval.

However, SSN lost the majority of its savings (some €100,000) which were kept in its Social Fund in the last years. The money from the Social Fund were invested in two big projects that failed in years 2011-2012. Nevertheless, the SSN is able to financially cover all requests for social help from other sources, namely from the (state-supported) Literary Fund and the Clean Word Foundation.

These low levels of financial support suggest a merely symbolic role of the SSN in providing social support for its members in need (and thus acting as a traditional trade union). In other words, the SSN offers only symbolic financial help. For example, an average salary in 2016 was estimated at around €900, while minimal wage was €405 in 2016. It can be estimated that the journalists employed full-time earned around €460 regionally, and between €700 up to 1,130 (gross) in and around the capital city.

SSN also provides legal advice via an external law office. The SSN annually receives a few dozen cases when individual journalists complain about breaching their labour rights, access to information or suggestions related to changes in legislation. There have been four new cases related to a libel case or other breach of a duty of a journalist in 2016. Since 2014, only one legal case in which SSN was involved has been decided - with negative results for a journalist at the first instance. There were two such cases in 2015 and four legal cases in 2014 (email from Daniel Modrovský, chairman of the SSN, November 10, 2016)

Interestingly, SSN mentions that it can provide financial support during a strike. However, this type of financial support should be regulated by a special status. This status does not exist. Similarly, there are not known cases when SSN was actually involved in collective bargaining related to collective contracts with employers.

Both regular and irregular members are obliged to express solidarity when enforcing basic rights of SSN members as well as other partner organisations of the International Federation of Journalists.