Survey reveals employees’ apathy to their rights at work

The Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia has published the results of its fourth population survey which investigated topics including inhabitants’ actions when their rights as employees are violated, occupational injuries from electrical equipment and compulsory medical check-ups. A comparison with the results of the 2009 survey suggests that the attitude of the inhabitants of Latvia towards their rights as employees is more indifferent than it was a year ago.

The survey’s goal and tasks

The results of the fourth annual population survey (in Latvian, 1.4Mb MS PowerPoint) carried out by the Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia (LBAS) on issues relating to working conditions was published in March 2010. The survey is one of the measures of the European Social Fund project, ‘Practical implementation of normative acts regulating work relations and work safety’, which LBAS began in 2008.

The goal of the survey is to ascertain society’s views on specific issues pertaining to working conditions. The survey published in March 2010 dealt with the following topics:

  • inhabitants’ actions when their rights as employees are violated;
  • occupational injuries from electrical equipment;
  • compulsory medical check-ups;
  • employees’ attitude to salary payments in cash in order to avoid paying taxes;
  • whether salaries are paid on time.

Methodology

The survey was conducted in February 2010 by the sociological research company, SKDS. Responses were received from 1,060 people aged between 15 and 74 made up of two target groups:

  • Latvian residents of working age (15–64 years of age, 911 respondents);
  • Latvian working population (550 respondents).

The survey used a stratified sampling method and was carried out across Latvia (126 selected points). Responses were obtained from direct interviews at the respondents’ houses.

Results

The survey results were compared with data obtained from a similar survey from March 2009.

Profile of respondents

A total of 47.1% of respondents were men and 52.9% were women.

There was an equal breakdown according to age group, income and residence.

A total of 65.3% respondents had secondary or specialised secondary education.

Employment status was as follows:

  • 37.5% were employed in the private sector;
  • 15% were employed in the public sector;
  • 47.5% were unemployed;
  • 26.6% were blue-collar workers.

Inhabitants’ actions when their rights as employees are violated

In cases where an employee’s rights are violated, 59% of respondents reported that they would try to resolve the situation by discussing it with the company’s management (in 2009 only 50% said they would do so). A total of 21% respondents said that they would lodge a complaint if their rights were violated (in 2009 it was 28%).

Only 45% of respondents (compared to 31% in 2009) would go to court if they were unlawfully fired. Fewer respondents in 2010 than in 2009 had no specific opinion on this matter. More respondents in the employed group would take their case to court; the group who would not showed the larger increase since 2009. A total of 63% of employed respondents said they would not return to their former place of employment if the court ruled that their firing had been unlawful and that they should be reinstated.

Occupational injuries from electrical equipment

Almost all (95%) of the 550 employed respondents reported there have been no injuries from electrical equipment at their place of employment. In places that have experienced such injuries, 3% of employed respondents cited employee ignorance and/or lack of instruction as the main causes.

Compulsory medical check-ups

A total of 48% of the 550 employed respondents (66% of respondents employed in the public sector) said they had received a medical check-up in the past year. One in five of these respondents claimed that such check-ups are not thorough enough and are too infrequent.

Payment

During the past year, there has been an increase in the number of respondents agreeing to receive their salaries in cash and without deductions for taxes (an increase from 52% in February 2009 to 67% in February 2010).

A total of 41% of employed respondents reported that their employer has not paid their salaries on time. Delays in the payment of salaries are more common in the private sector and in rural regions; 50% of blue-collar workers, 38% of specialists and officials, and 17% of managers indicated that they had experienced delays in receiving their pay.

Commentary

The attitude of inhabitants of Latvia towards their rights as employees is more indifferent than it was a year ago. It seems that the current economic conditions are forcing people to agree to employment conditions that provide greater immediate benefits. Nevertheless, this conclusion is based only on a comparison of attitudes over two years. As the survey cycle continues, it will provide an opportunity to track changes in the attitudes of inhabitants over a longer period of time and a greater time frame will allow for a more definitive picture.

Raita Karnite, EPC Ltd

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