Conference on tripartism
EU Presidency Conference on Tripartism in an enlarged European Union
Co-organised by the Danish Ministry of Employment and the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions
Hotel Comwell, Elsinore, Denmark
29-30 October 2002
Speech abstract - Alberto Cerda Mico
Pre-Accession Adviser, PHARE Twinning Project Spain-Latvia
Social dialogue in Latvia
We will briefly take a look at the main organisations involved in social dialogue in Latvia and the situation regarding the balance of power and role which they play.
The workers are represented by the "Free Trade Union Association of Latvia" (FTAL), which is the organisation that unites all trade unions in the country. The FTAL covers around 25% of employees (in 1999 up to 222,000 members, a figure which decreased to 207,000 members in 2000).
The decline in membership can be explained as follows:
- trust in trade unions is not high (they are still seen as part of the old system);
- the process towards privatisation of big public enterprises which become small entities is difficult;
- the growth of individualist attitudes among young people;
- economic difficulties with high unemployment;
- reluctance of workers to pay fees for membership (which are the main income for the trade union).
The result is that the trade union is mainly represented in big enterprises, specially in the public sector (teachers, hospitals, scientists) and less in the services sector and least in the industry. They are established in only 8% of the enterprises. They also lack sufficient staff to actively participate in social dialogue.
The main organisation of employers is the Employers' Confederation of Latvia (ECL), which represents the enterprises employing the highest number of workers. By law they are the only group which has the right to participate in social dialogue together with the government and trade unions. (There are alsol up to 16 organisations representing small and medium size companies but, as their members do not employ the biggest number of workers, their right to participate in social dialogue is not recognised.)
In practice, the ECL represents only the biggest enterprises.
In order to stimulate a more successful development of the social dialogue among employers, employees and the government, it would be necessary to increase the membership of the social partners - the ECL and the FTAL. It is also necessary to stimulate the development of the financial mechanisms of organisations of employers and employees and make more flexible the participation in social dialogue of employers organisations representing small and medium sized companies.
Bilateral social dialogue
The FCL and the FAL have bilateral consultations. On 1 January 2001 the number of concluded collective agreements was 2,436. These agreements covered 211,887 employees.
The National Trilateral Cooperation Council (NTCC) is a national institution of trilateral social dialogue including representatives of the government, the ECL and the FTAL. The main objective of the NTCC is to promote the co-operation of the government, employers' organisations and employees' organisations at national level. It also seeks to ensure a harmonised resolution of problems of social economic development. That is done by formulating and implementing strategies, programmes and normative acts on social and economic issues guaranteeing social stability, the growth of the welfare level in the country, and would increase the co-responsibility of social partners for decisions taken and their execution.
Three sub-councils operate within the institutional system of the NTCC:
- The Social Insurance Council;
- The Trilateral Co-operation Sub-council on Vocational Education and Employment;
- The Trilateral Co-operation Sub-council on Labour Affairs.
Actions undertaken to improve the social dialogue in the Occupational Safety and Health field
In June 2001 the implementation started of the Twinning Covenant for Spain-Latvia with the purpose of developing the necessary laws, structures and controls in order to ensure compliance with European Union (EU) requirements in the field of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) and to strengthen the capacity of the Ministry of Welfare and the State Labour Inspectorate to guarantee effective implementation of the transposed directives. The covenant had foreseen the following main objectives:
- To finalise the transposition of several OSH directives and develop the secondary regulations to ensure effective implementation of new regulations. Latvia has approved a New Labour Protection Law transposing the requirements of the Framework directive 89/391/EEC on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers Therefore, a draft for the regulation of the Preventive Services was elaborated to provide advise to Latvian enterprises in order to undertake risk assessment and preventive activities. The role, rights and functions of the workers representatives on the field of OSH were regulated as well. During the discussions for the transposition of regulations several working groups were set up with the active participation of the social partners.
- Latvia lacked the basic essential training and disseminating materials, which could provide information on OSH issues to social partners. Therefore the project has prepared the translation and adaptation to the Latvian experience of almost 3,000 pages from manuals, guidelines and brochures published by the Spanish National Institute for OSH. Some materials were provided by the Danish Institute as two Danish experts (Helene Ostry and Tommy Modest, both from the Danish Labour Inspectorate) were invited to collaborate with the implementation of the covenant. The social partners were involved in the preparation of the adaptation of the contents of those materials. Public Relation Campaigns to raise the social awareness on OSH matters were undertaken with participation of social partners.
A Strategic Document was elaborated by Spanish and Danish experts about the role to be played in future in Latvia by all institutions concerned in the development of informative and disseminative materials. The social partners were consulted and involved in the preparation of the Strategy.
- A study was undertaken on the cost/benefit impact for Latvia of transposition of OSH directives. There was an active participation of social partners in discussions and the analysis of the results. Up to three pilot projects were started in 3 companies representing 3 mayor economic sectors (food industry, hostelry and hospital) for the implementation in practice of preventive activities. The pilot projects required the constitution of OSH Committees with participation of workers representatives, although the employers were sometimes reluctant to have participation of workers.
- The role to be played by the new labour administration in the implementation of the new regulations was analysed and technical advise was provided for the improvement of the information exchange channels with the SLI in order to guarantee the capacity of public institutions to implement planned actions and campaigns on the OSH field. Recommendations about the improvement of the information provided by enterprises (meetings with workers representatives, training of workers, information received by workers, medical examinations, participation in risk evaluations and in planning preventive activities, etc) to Labour Authorities were formulated in order to guarantee a follow up of effective implementation of new regulations and effective participation of the workers. Recommendations were formulated in order to increase the participation of social partners in the formulation of annual plans and campaigns launched by LD and SLI so that their suggestions and priorities can be taken into account.
- Considering that education at all levels (from school to University) is a basic tool for the effective implementation in the enterprises of a new preventive culture with the active involvement of the workers, a Strategic Document was elaborated for the progressive implementation of OSH culture in the Latvian Educational system.
- Finally, training activities and seminars were provided on the content of the new requirements to social partners, who participated in the activities together with members of the SLI, giving the chance to build a close contact favourable to tripartism. Up to 192 persons attended the 9 training seminars organised during the implementation of the project.