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Footballers in Slovenia, 73% of whom have self-employment contracts according to a FIFPro survey, will soon have better legal protection thanks to a new agreement which their union is brokering.

Negotiations are in the final stages between the union, SPINS, and clubs to implement normal employment contracts with minimum standards, according to Matej Orazem, sporting director of first-division team NK Domzale.

Under the plans, players earning less than an agreed amount, for example 1,500 euros per month, will have to sign an employment contract and those earning more can choose which type of contract they want. As part of the same agreement, independent arbitration to resolve contract disputes could be introduced as early as February.

“We have reached consensus on most issues,” Orazem said.

“It will be a huge improvement of the poor current status for players,” said Dejan Stefanovic (photo), president of SPINS.

It is believed it would be the first collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in Eastern European football. The negotiations are fully supported by the Slovenian Football Association and the Ministry of Sports. A CBA is a legally-binding agreement between an employer and staff, represented by their union.

“This deal in Slovenia shows, that if all parties are willing, that a collective agreement is also possible in Eastern Europe,” said FIFPro lawyer Roy Vermeer.

The introduction of a (non-amendable) standard player contract will encourage more players to sign a normal employment contract instead of a self-employment contract, which has a lower tax rate but offers far less protection against overdue pay or if a club becomes insolvent.

In recent years, several clubs in Slovenia went bankrupt. Players, who were on self-employment contracts at the time, missed out on pay and compensation from the state.

“We want to prevent these tragic stories,” said Orazem. “We have to protect the players with basic rights.”

“Together with the clubs we are trying to find a way within the collective bargaining agreement to include the most important guarantees for self-employment contract too,” said Stefanovic.

Orazem explained that clubs also benefit from the deal. “All clubs will have to comply with the same rules, which is currently not the case,” he said.

“We mutually recognize that we had to safeguard the integrity of our championship and create a level playing field for all clubs, with all players enjoying the same protection, regardless of which club they are playing for,” Stefanovic added.

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