Social partners approve amendments to Law on Trade Unions
The Law on Trade Unions (LTU) currently in force in Lithuania was originally adopted in 1991, undergoing few amendments since then. In the summer of 2007, following long discussions and reciprocal agreements, the social partners supported a number of amendments to the LTU at the Tripartite Council of the Republic of Lithuania. Extending the membership of trade unions and providing for paid time and training for employee representation are among the proposals.
The Law on Trade Unions (LTU) of the Republic of Lithuania was originally adopted at the end of 1991 and was amended twice during the period 1994–2003. The amendments were, however, not very substantial. After long-lasting discussions, the major Lithuanian trade union organisations devised a draft law amending and modifying the LTU. In early 2007, the social partners discussed the draft at the Tripartite Council of the Republic of Lithuania (Lietuvos Respublikos Trišalė taryba, LRTT) and its Committee of Labour Relations (Darbo santykių komitetas, DSK); however, the draft was not approved (LT0702039I). On 19 June, the LRTT returned to the discussions regarding the draft, finally agreeing to its adoption.
Content of amendments
In addition to a number of editorial revisions, the social partners agreed to amendments regarding the provisions of the LTU; these amendments aim to liberalise the procedure regarding the formation of trade unions and to equalise guarantees of works councils and trade unions.
Extension of membership base
One of the fundamental amendments agreed on by the social partners is to provide the possibility to all individuals who are capable of working to join trade unions; this includes not only individuals employed under employment contracts, but also those engaged in private business activities under business licences, unemployed individuals and students. The current version of the LTU stipulates that only employed individuals may be members of trade unions, while former employees are not allowed to continue their membership of the trade union after terminating employment relations.
According to the initiators of the draft law, the present situation should be changed, as in some cases the courts do not allow trade unions to represent their members who have been dismissed from work, because they are no longer employees and in an employment relationship. Furthermore, the envisaged amendment caters for the possibility to organise other social groups, such as students and unemployed people. However, according to the draft, the founders of trade unions may only be employees working under employment contracts, while other persons may join existing trade unions.
Founding member threshold reduced
Compared with the current legislation, the draft bill, as approved by the social partners, reduces the number of founding members required for establishing trade unions. According to the draft, the minimum threshold for founding a trade union is 20 employees, instead of 30 employees as at present – or at least one tenth of all employees in the particular company, instead of one fifth of employees as currently stipulated, but no less than three employees.
Remuneration and number of hours
The draft law proposes to equalise the guarantees of trade unions and works councils in relation to the following:
- remuneration for certain numbers of hours committed to trade union or works council activities;
- payment for training of trade union officials or members of works councils.
The Law on Works Councils stipulates that members of works councils shall be given at least 60 hours a year, for which remuneration is paid, to exercise the functions of employee representatives. The draft law defines the number of hours to be shared by all trade union officials. The number of hours depends on the number of employees in a company: the greater the number of employees, the more hours the trade union will be granted to perform its functions each year. The minimum of 60 working hours a year remains fixed where the number of employees in a company does not exceed 20 employees, while the maximum of 900 working hours a year is guaranteed when a company has more than 700 employees.
The draft law stipulates that the qualifications of trade union officials, as with members of works councils, should be improved with the support of employer funds. At least three days a year should be given for the regular improvement of qualifications, unless the collective agreement stipulates otherwise.
Although the social partners’ support for the bill was confirmed at the LRTT, the draft bill had to be approved by the ministries. The final decision regarding the amendments to the LTU would be made by the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania (Lietuvos Respublikos Seimas, LRS).
Inga Blažienė, Institute of Labour and Social Research