Vilnius Dump, Lithuania: Recruitment/Redeployment
The company Vilnius Dump was established in 1999 in Lithuania's capital city, Vilnius, which has a population of about 550,000. The main activities of the company are the collection and sorting of both industrial and household waste. Although the company sorts waste materials, it does not recycle them but just places them in different parts of the territory. There is a separate sludge accumulation territory in which another company, Vilnius Water, deposits sludge from Vilnius' water-cleansing system. Sludge and all other waste will eventually be processed after the dump is closed.
Vilnius Dump employs 50 people (14% women and 86% men) in its two departments — administration (with 10 employees) and production (with 40 employees). The company does not discriminate against older workers in its recruitment policy. There are also redeployment possibilities for older workers and workers who become pensioners can remain with the company as long as they are capable of doing the job. The average age of the workforce is 48 years. About 60% of all employees are in the age range 40-50; over 20% are older than 50 and the remainder are under 40. The staff turnover rate is 6-7% per year, mainly in the production department. All employees work in one shift. Most production workers in the dump are men because the job is physically hard. No special qualifications are required for the job, except a driving licence if the work involves driving a bin lorry. White-collar employees working in administration have higher education.
Social dialogue in the company is informal. Annual interviews are used as a means of better communication between workers and management.
Good practice today
Policy towards older workers in Vilnius Dump has two strands. Firstly, the company offers older workers redeployment possibilities within the company or else a slightly changed job specification if their current work becomes too demanding. Secondly, the company's recruitment policy targets older people.
According to the company's CEO, there are two reasons for these initiatives. Firstly, certain job specifics (such as smell, distance from the city and the negative connotations associated with working in a rubbish disposal company) make the job unattractive to younger workers. The second reason is a familiar one — the overall shortage of labour in Lithuania. Taken together, these issues result in a shortage in the supply of younger workers for this company, among many others in the country.
A key feature of the policy is redeployment within the company — if a person is no longer able to undertake physically hard work (such as collecting trash or driving a bin lorry), he or she is offered an easier job within the company. Even though the job is easier, the remuneration remains as close as possible to the previous wage, or decreases by not more than 10%, so that workers do not suffer a loss in motivation.
A recent example of redeployment involved a 58-year-old bin lorry driver who developed health problems. As a result, he did not pass the necessary health review in order to keep his driving licence. The company did not invalid him out, but rather offered him a job sorting waste in the dump territory. The man accepted the offer and is still working with the company.
Given the average age of the workforce (48 years), the problem of not being able to physically do the job arises from time to time for some workers. Strenuous tasks are involved in the work, such as lifting heavy recycle bins or collecting heavy and sizeable waste left around them (e.g. old furniture). Another problem can be the hot weather, especially relevant for workers who are overweight. According to the company's CEO, the prevalence of absence from sickness is a little bit higher among older workers, but the difference is not significant and is not considered a problem by management.
Health problems are identified during annual screenings and interviews with employees. Annual health checks are compulsory for all employees and are made in order to detect if they are capable of continuing with their present job; if not, they can be redeployed to a less demanding job. The procedure involves the company issuing a standardised health checklist to each employee. They then go to their family doctor, who completes the form and returns it to the company. In addition, interviews with employees are held on a yearly basis in order to elicit information on a self-evaluation basis.
A further aspect of the Vilnius Dump case is that the company actively recruits older people. In 2006, two workers over the age of 45 were hired. Given the average staff turnover rate, this represents more than 50% of new hires. There are no age limits in job advertisements and the advertisements themselves appear in media outlets that older people will read and see (e.g. local newspapers and special newspapers devoted to job advertisements) rather than on the Internet.
In general, management sees no problem in having older employees; indeed, the company appreciates the fact that older workers are more likely to stay in the job and also to have a better attitude. Younger workers are seen as more conceited, while older ones do their job with more commitment. At the same time, however, the company aims to improve working conditions and raise wages in order to attract younger employees. But it will seek to retain those current employees who have been loyal and committed to the company.
Contact: Gintaras Čukauskas, CEO