Trade unions in focus

There are three main trade union centres in Lithuania, plus several independent trade unions. According to data reported by the unions themselves, there are around 200,000 union members in total, making up 14% of the workforce. This article examines the situation of trade unions as of late 2004.

There are currently three national trade union centres in Lithuania - the Lithuanian Trade Union Confederation (Lietuvos profesiniu sajungu konfederacija, LPSK), the Lithuanian Trade Union 'Solidarumas' (Lietuvos profesine sajunga Solidarumas, Solidarumas) and the Lithuanian Labour Federation (Lietuvos darbo federacija, LDF). In addition to these centres (ie confederations/federations), there are several independent trade unions.

As Lithuanian legislation does not provide for the obligatory registration of trade union membership, the exact number of employees represented by the three centres not known. According to the data provided by the unions themselves, their combined membership is around 200,000 making up 14% of all those in employment. The division of union membership among the three main centres and the other unions is shown in the figure below.

Trade union membership in Lithuania in 2004 (%)

Trade union membership in Lithuania in 2004 (%)

Source: LPSK, Solidarumas, LDF and LRTT data.

Lithuanian trade unions are governed by the country's Constitution, the Labour Code, the Law on Trade Unions, other legal regulations and their own statutes. The main centres work in close cooperation, participate in joint projects, and represent workers in various tripartite councils.

Lithuanian Trade Union Confederation

LPSK is the largest trade union organisation in Lithuania, claiming about 120,000 members. It was set up on 1 May 2002 following merger between the two previous largest trade union centres - the Lithuanian Trade Union Unification and the Lithuanian Trade Union Centre.

The LPSK is a voluntary, self-regulating, 'self-functioning' organisation, independent of state authorities, employers or their organisations, political parties, public organisations and movements. Its membership is organised on a branch/sectoral basis and current has 25 affiliated branch trade unions.

LPSK maintains close contacts with other national and international trade unions organisations. It is a member of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). LPSK also cooperates with Nordic and other European trade unions and participates in the activities of the Trade Union Council of the Baltic States. It cooperates with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in implementing international labour standards in Lithuania, and represents Lithuanian employees in the ILO's activities

LPSK has two representatives on the country's top-level tripartite body - the Tripartite Council of the Republic of Lithuania (Lietuvos Respublikos Trisale taryba, LRTT).

Activities

The role of LPSK is to:

  • unite, support and coordinate the actions of its members at branch and regional level, defend the rights and legitimate interests of its members and member organisations, and of employees and trade unions, and seek to influence national policy and employers’ activities in the field of labour, economic and social issues;
  • represent members and affiliated trade unions in tackling social, economic and labour-related problems with state authorities, employers and their organisations; and
  • encourage unity in the establishment of joint trade union policy in Lithuania and the development of international solidarity.

The LPSK structure includes:

  • a 'legal labour inspection', which represents the rights and interests of trade union members in labour law cases (in courts and labour dispute commissions), monitors the observance of legislation by employers, and provides legal training;
  • an education support fund, which coordinates and delivers LPSK's training, seeks to develop the ability of trade union members to participate actively in their work and trade union activities, and in society, provides public information about trade union activities, and represents LPSK in national and international education/training activities; and
  • a women's centre, which seeks to unite female union members and involve more women in trade union activities. The centre promotes women’s rights in the pursuit of equal opportunities in work, society, policy and the family, and fights against discrimination, exploitation and sexual harassment.

Lithuanian Trade Union 'Solidarumas'

Solidarumas was established on 8 June 2002 after the former Lithuanian Workers Union changed its name. Solidarumas continued the activities of the Lithuanian Workers Union and took over all its rights and obligations. At present, Solidarumas claims 52,000 members. It is a non-profit trade union organisation, independent of employers or state powers and authorities, political parties and other organisations.

Solidarumas is made up of basic trade union organisations at enterprise level, which are grouped in county, city/town and regional territorial bodies and in federations. It currently has 25 affiliated territorial unions and 10 federations. The goals and objectives of Solidarumas include representation of its members, and advocating their professional, economic and social rights, interests and dignity.

Solidarumas maintains contacts and cooperates closely with unions in neighbouring countries, and with European and global trade union organisations. In 1995, Solidarumas (then the Lithuanian Workers Union) joined ICFTU.

Solidarumas has one representative on the national tripartite LRTT.

Activities

The activity of LPS Solidarumas includes:

  • holding meetings at enterprise and regional level to discuss problems and solutions;
  • consulting members on legal, economic and social issues;
  • organising workshops to which representatives of the government, employment services and employers are invited;
  • holding seminars for trade union leaders and members on labour law, collective bargaining, collective agreements and other issues; and
  • arranging round-table discussions at regional level, to which representatives of local governments, employers and trade unions are invited.

Lithuanian Labour Federation

LDF - a Christian trade union organisation - was established in 1919. It was abolished during the Soviet occupation, but recreated in 1991, when independence was restored. At present, LDF has about 20,000 members and 10 affiliated sectoral organisations.

The LDF has been a member of the World Confederation of Labour (WCL) since 1996 and since 2002 a full member of ETUC.

Activities

The role of LDF includes:

  • representing members in tackling social, economic and labour problems with employers, state authorities and managing bodies, their organisations and other institutions;
  • integrating and coordinating the activities of LDF members on the national level in compliance with the law and Christian social doctrine, defending their rights and interests, and implementing social, economic and labour policy under free market conditions;
  • seeking trade union solidarity in Lithuania and abroad;
  • arranging seminars for union leaders and members on labour law, collective bargaining and collective agreements;
  • encouraging the formation of new affiliated organisations and membership growth; and
  • improving the image of trade unions in society.

Commentary

A number of key points should be emphasised about Lithuanian trade union movement,. First, unions do not appear to have managed to get rid of the image inherited from Soviet-era trade unions, failing to achieve the necessary confidence in the wider public. Unions do not have adequate powers, and often adequate resources, in order to attain their goals. Moreover, trade unions are quite weak (with the exception of a number of relatively strong branch/sectoral organisations) and divided; some unions often hold different positions and compete with each other. Furthermore, trade union organisations and their actual activities at national level remain in most cases largely 'terra incognita'. As regulations do not provide for obligatory registration of union membership or collective agreements, the exact number of union members and of collective agreements - and their coverage - is unknown. (Inga Blaziene, Institute of Labour and Social Research).

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