EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life
Attitudes towards work safety regulations and employment relations
Less than half of Latvian workers and 81% of employers consider that they are aware of the legal aspects of employment relations. Some 79% of employers interviewed are aware of work safety issues, but only 14% consider themselves to be very well informed in this area. Overall, 30% of the employers interviewed admit that work safety regulations under Latvian labour legislation are difficult to comply with. These findings, among others, are the conclusions of the public opinion study on the operation of the State Labour Inspectorate, carried out in 2005.
The activities of the State Labour Inspectorate (Valsts Darba Inspekcija, VDI) were analysed in 2005, as part of the measures to improve state services operating in the field of social welfare. The situation of VDI was captured in the comprehensive Study on public opinion on the operation of the State Labour Inspectorate, carried out by the Marketing and Public Opinion Research Centre SKDS (Tirgus un sabiedriskās domas pētījumu centrs SKDS, SKDS) in June and July 2005.
The study outlines awareness and attitudes in relation to: legal employment relations and work safety, trade unions and employer organisations, and the activities of VDI.
The research was based on a population sample survey including 1,006 workers and 509 employers (278 employers in the capital city, Riga, and 231 located outside Riga).
Awareness of legal employment relations and work safety
The study explored the degree of employer and employee awareness of legal employment relations and work safety issues. Overall, 46% of workers and 81% of employers in Latvia consider that they are aware of the legal aspects of employment relations, while only 10% of workers and 16% of employers consider themselves to be ‘very well informed’ of such matters.
Some 79% of employers are aware of work safety issues, while only 14% of the employers consider themselves to be ‘very well informed’ in this area. About 80% of employees are aware of the legislative acts related to work safety, and more than 40% of employees are aware of the need for training in the field of work safety and the possible fines for negligence in terms of safety at the workplace.
Attitudes towards legal employment relations
The study reveals employer and employee attitudes towards the employment contract and collective agreement, measures taken in cases of failure to comply with legal employment relations and employer attitudes towards regulation of legal relations.
Attitudes towards work safety
Moreover, the study assesses the employees’ and employers’ evaluation of the situation in relation to work safety at their workplace. It examines aspects such as exposure to harmful working conditions, attitudes towards work safety and risk prevention measures, exposure to accidents at work, measures taken in relation to failure to ensure work safety, and the employers’ attitude towards the regulations concerning work safety.
Figure 1: Answers to the question ‘Do you encounter the following conditions at your workplace?’ (employee survey)
Source: Study on public opinion on the operation of the State Labour Inspectorate, p. 54
Figure 2: Answers to the question ‘Do your employees encounter the following conditions at work?’ (employer survey)
Source: Study on public opinion on the operation of the State Labour Inspectorate, p. 58
Figures 1 and 2 show that the perception of harmful conditions at work differs between employees and employers.
Overall, employees evaluate work safety as being only of an average standard. Half of the workers would demand the provision of work protection measures if the employer did not provide them. However, only 21% of employees would actually refuse to work until adequate safety conditions were ensured.
Some 30% of the employers interviewed admitted that the regulations related to work safety as stipulated by Latvian labour legislation are difficult to comply with, most frequently due to financial constraints. Only 8% of the employers had calculated what the costs of an accident at work would amount to.
Presence of trade unions and employer organisations
In assessing the attitude towards trade unions, it was found that 75.1% of the employees interviewed are trade union members. However, only 8.3% of employers report that trade unions are present in their companies, while 88.6% state that no trade unions are represented in their organisations.
Figure 3: Answers to the questions ‘Does a trade union operate at your workplace?’ (employee survey) and ‘Does a trade union operate at your enterprise?’ (employer survey)
Source: Study on public opinion on the operation of the State Labour Inspectorate, p. 76
Participation in employer organisations is rather modest. In fact, 90.8% of employers are not members of an employer organisation, while 7.9% are members; 1.4% of the employers interviewed did not reply to this question.
Attitudes towards State Labour Inspectorate
The study also examines awareness of the activities of VDI, information sources about the inspectorate and attitudes towards VDI. Some 31% of employees and 22% of employers noted that they feel positive about hearing VDI being mentioned, while this name caused negative feelings among 8% of workers and 21% of employers.
Raita Karnite, Institute of Economics, Latvian Academy of Sciences