Lithuanian trade unions join forces to push demands

Three large national trade union associations have traditionally operated in Lithuania and participated in social dialogue at national level. As a rule, a number of small unaffiliated trade union organisations would not normally take part in such dialogue. The first meeting of representatives of all Lithuanian trade unions took place in October 2011. They agreed on future joint trade union objectives and later submitted their requirements to parliament and the government. The action culminated in a mass union protest in Vilnius on 10 December.

Background

Since the early 1990s, throughout the entire period of Lithuania’s independence, three national trade union confederations have operated in the country; the Lithuanian Trade Union Confederation (LPSK), the Lithuanian Labour Federation (LDF) and the Lithuanian Trade Union ‘Solidarumas’ (LPS ‘Solidarumas’) (LT0412102F). In addition to these, there are a number of small trade union organisations unaffiliated to the peak union confederations.

By contrast with these small unaffiliated trade unions, the three peak trade union organisations have been involved in social dialogue at national level, operating as the main representatives of trade union interests in dialogue with employers and the state. The three organisations have established the Co-ordination Centre of Lithuanian Trade Unions (LPSKC) and organised all major protest campaigns and rallies in the country (see, for example, LT0511101N, LT1104019I). As a rule, the other trade unions would remain in the background.

Historic meeting

On 17 October 2011 the LPSKC initiated a meeting of representatives from all trade unions in Lithuania, a historic event in the development of the Lithuanian trade union movement.

The meeting was attended by representatives from almost all of the nine trade unions. After airing some long-held grievances, the unions managed to agree on their main objectives – to overcome any past grievances, to consolidate their efforts to contribute to the improvement of the social and economic situation of Lithuanian people, and to place the union movement in a position to strongly oppose decisions of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (LRV) that are not in the interests of the unions’ members.

During the meeting, the trade unions’ representatives agreed to set up a coordination group intended:

…to develop as soon as possible the guidelines, opportunities and forms for the cooperation of trade unions. Demands will be drawn up to be presented to the Latvian government, and a date will be set for a protest campaign should those demands not be met. First joint actions

Following several meetings held by the trade unions’ coordination group in October and November, the unions’ demands were agreed and signed by all nine unions, for submission to the government and parliament (LRS) on 21 November. The trade unions are ready to call protests, to give workers a platform on which to defend their rights, unless the unions’ demands are satisfied.

In their submission to the government, the trade unions stated that:

Lithuanian trade unions oppose the economic, financial and social policy which has been pursued by the ruling majority and its Government, and which has impoverished many Lithuanian people, forcing them to emigrate. The trade unions are indignant about continuous proposals to liberalise labour relations: the simplification of dismissal procedures, non-payment of severance pay, extension of working time. The Lithuanian trade unions assert that the right to strike is only formally valid in this country, and trade union leaders are exposed to harassment and intimidation.

Trade union demands include:

  • an increase in the minimum monthly wage to LTL 1,000 (€290) from 1 January 2012;
  • reduction of taxes on labour;
  • introduction of a progressive taxation system to reduce social exclusion;
  • making amendments to labour legislation only after reaching agreement with trade unions and employers’ organisations;
  • requirement to ratify ILO Convention No 102 on minimum social protection standards by the LRS;
  • ensuring the right of workers to go on strike and an end to the intimidation of workers' representatives;
  • ensuring the right of citizens to hold a referendum.

The demands have been signed not only by the peak trade union confederations, but also by the chairs of the Joint Trade Union (JPS), Klaipėda Town and Region Trade Union (KMAPS), Lithuanian Medical Workers’ Employees Trade Union (LMDPS), Lithuanian Trade Union Unification ‘Sandrauga’ (LPSS ‘Sandrauga’), Lithuanian Education Employees Trade Union (LSDPS) and the National Association of Officials’ Trade Union (NPPSS).

No response from government

As the trade unions said they had not received an adequate response from either the Lithuanian government or parliament, they went ahead and organised a rally in Vilnius on 10 December.

Inga Blaziene, Institute of Labour and Social Research

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