Collective labour dispute in railway sector
Already over two years a railway company Edelaraudtee and the Estonian Locomotive Workers’ Trade Union have held negotiations in order to conclude a collective agreement without reaching any results. During this time the trade union organisation has threatened with strikes for several times. Public conciliator is involved in resolving this labour dispute but so far the conflict has not found a solution.
A railway company Edelaraudtee Veeremi OÜ and Estonian Locomotive Workers’ Trade Union (Eesti Vedurimeeste Ametiühing) have held negotiations in order to conclude a collective agreement already over two years. The negotiations are concentrated on pay increase of locomotive drivers. The trade union began the negotiations with demand of EEK 43 per hour, which meant a pay increase of 40%. According to the last collective agreement, that was valid during 2002-2004, the locomotive drivers got EEK 30.70 per hour.
Edelaraudtee raised the wages of locomotive drivers in February 2005 retrospectively from 1 January by 12% (to EEK 34.40 per hour), but this did not satisfy the union. Locomotive drivers did not disclaim from their demand and threatened with a strike. Union also argued that the locomotive drivers in another railway company - Estonian Railways (Eesti Raudtee) - are getting about EEK 43 per hour. This pay increase was accomplished as a result of the strike held in September 2004 (EE0410101N, EE0410103F). In September 2004, the trade union in Edelaraudtee held a support strike for two days to support their counterparts in Estonian Railways and tried to draw attention to their own bargaining process. After this support strike, Edelaraudtee sued the trade union, but the case was ruled in favour of the trade union. The locomotive drivers in Edelaraudtee wanted to organise a strike already in April 2004 to support its demands for pay increase. However, the strike was cancelled, because it would have been unlawful, as there was a valid collective agreement in enterprise during which both parties had to keep an industrial peace (EE0402102F).
By now the public conciliator (EE0501104F) is involved to resolve this labour dispute. On 10 May 2005, Edelaraudtee agreed to the proposition of the public conciliator to pay EEK 37.15 per hour since 1 June, on condition that the pay system would be revised. Public conciliator criticised the system of additional payments for being confusing, incorrect and occasionally controversial to the law. Edelaraudtee admitted that the pay system needs a reform, but accused the trade union in drawling the reform by taking this conflict to the public conciliator. The management of the company also criticised the public conciliator because of its criticism and stated that the public conciliator exceeds its authority by doing this.
As the trade union disliked the idea of additional preconditions, it threatened again to begin a strike as soon as the public conciliator would end the mediation process. In this situation, Edelaraudtee turned to the Confederation of Estonian Trade Unions (Eesti Ametiühingute Keskliit, EAKL) (EE0308101F) and to the Estonian Employers’ Confederation (Eesti Tööandjate Keskliit, ETTK) (EE0310102F) with the request that these organisations should resolve the labour dispute. Edelaraudtee hoped that by the mediation of these organisations, they could avoid the strike, because the union could not begin a strike while the conflict is under treatment. The public conciliator claimed that this proposition was pointless, because he had not yet decided to end the mediation process and so it is not possible to resolve the conflict officially in two different ways at the same time. Because of the same reason, also EAKL announced that it could not participate in the resolution of this conflict. In addition, it stated that according to the Collective Labour Dispute Resolution Act, the conflict resolution between central organisations may be resultant and end with a binding decision to parties only if both parties of dispute have expressed their request for conciliation or given their approval to it, but thus far the trade union had not requested nor approved this conciliation.
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