Trade unions plan new protest meetings in late November

Trade unions in Lithuania are planning demonstrations in November after their failed attempt at a mass protest in front of government headquarters on 29 September. The unions could not get a permit for the September demonstration, and instead had to organise token pickets at various ministries. However, unions are now hoping to bring people to Vilnius from all over the country to demand an increase in the minimum wage, lower food prices, job creation measures and higher pensions.

How unions’ protest attempt failed

On 29 September, in solidarity with European trade unions, the country’s trade unions – the Lithuania Trade Union Confederation (LPSK), the Lithuanian Labour Federation (LDF) and the Lithuanian Trade Union ‘Solidarumas’ (LPS ‘Solidarumas’), together with the Lithuanian Journalists’ Union (LŽS) and the Lithuanian Association for the Elderly (LPZA (74Kb PDF)) – planned to hold a meeting near the headquarters of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (LRV) in Vilnius.

Though the meeting was approved by the Municipality of Vilnius City (VMS), the unions were told to protest in a place quite far away from the government headquarters. The unions appealed in court against this, but their case was not heard by the court until the date of the protest. As a result, the unions decided not to go ahead with the mass meeting and instead resorted to pickets and protest actions in Vilnius and other parts of Lithuania.

September protests

The picketers gathered at the Ministry of Culture (KM), Ministry of Economy (ŪM), Ministry of Education and Science (SMM), Ministry of Environment (AAM), Ministry of Finance (FM), Ministry of Health (SAM), Ministry of Justice (TM), Ministry of Social Security and Labour (SADM), Ministry of Transport and Communications (SM), the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists (LPK), the Lithuanian Business Employers’ Confederation (LVDK) and the VMS. The picketers pointedly marched past the headquarters of the LRV to the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania (LRS) where they expressed their solidarity with police officers and firefighters who began a hunger strike there on 22 September demanding better pay and working conditions.

About 200 picketers later gathered in the courtyard of the LPSK to speak out against growing unemployment, rising prices, economic migration of working-age people and wage cuts. The leader of the LPSK, Artūras Cerniauskas, said the meeting was symbolic and urged the participants to prepare for a mass meeting at the end of November with ‘not a few hundreds, but many thousands’ of people in attendance.

November’s mass protest

The date of the protest will be announced after the finalisation of court proceedings with the VMS and acquisition of the appropriate permit. According to the union leaders, the demands will be the same:

  • an increase in the minimum wage;
  • reduction of food prices;
  • measures to create jobs and increase pensions.

The monthly minimum wage in Lithuania is LTL 800 (about €232), while the average old age pension is LTL 747 (€217) per month. The unions have not demanded specific figures and it is expected that they might ask the government to step down.

Commentary

The meetings and actions on 29 September were not confined to the city of Vilnius, but were also held in other cities and towns including Kaunas, Panevėžys, Utena and Kėdainiai. In most of them, small groups of protesters picketed near local authority buildings, while in Utena 250–300 protesters specifically demanded that the government ensures economic growth, decreases taxes, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and increases the minimum wage.

Inga Blažienė, Institute of Labour and Social Research

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