Social partners try to reach consensus on new national agreement

The national agreement, which was signed between the Lithuanian government and social partners in October 2009, expired at the end of 2010. Attempts to initiate the signing of a new agreement in 2011 were unsuccessful. In July 2012, a new version of the agreement was prepared and presented at the sitting of the Tripartite Council. However, it is difficult to say whether the social partners will reach a consensus on the national agreement and, if they do, which parties will to sign it.

Background

Lithuania’s National Agreement (90Kb PDF) was signed between the government and social partners in October 2009 (LT0911019I, LT0912019I). It expired at the end of 2010. Attempts to launch a new agreement in 2011 (LT1011019I) were unsuccessful.

Elections to the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania (LRS) are due to take place in October 2012. A resolution that a new national agreement should be signed before the elections was passed at a conference held on 27 April 2012, ‘On the initiation of a new national agreement’, attended by the leaders of major Lithuanian political parties, including Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, and representatives of business organisations and trade unions.

Discussions were held at the conference on the possibility of setting up of a new national agreement between:

...the social partners and political parties to define the principles of partnership among national business organisations, political parties and trade unions, as well as commitments of political parties towards key economic and social issues.

New agreement

A new version of the agreement was prepared and presented by the representatives of the employer organisations at the sitting of the Tripartite Council of the Republic of Lithuania (LRTT) in July 2102. The employers’ version of the agreement requires the social partners to agree on:

  • compliance with the Maastricht criteria (the five criteria that determine whether an EU country is ready to adopt the euro. They relate to price stability, budget deficit, debt, interest rates, and exchange rate stability. These criteria were laid down in the Maastricht Treaty);
  • securing the tax system’s stability;
  • improvement of the business environment;
  • improvement of public administration;
  • securing energy at the lowest reasonable cost.

The draft agreement stipulates that, in cooperation with social partners, the new Government of the Republic of Lithuania (LRV) formed after the LRS autumn 2012 election will develop an Action/Measure Plan for the implementation of the national agreement in 2012–2016.

Trade unions question need for new national agreement

Trade unions were consulted on the draft national agreement and were of the opinion that it was only of benefit to businesses. The unions presented their own draft version with the addition to its long-term objectives of, among other things, the creation of a social welfare state. Other objectives included:

  • the introduction of progressive taxation;
  • the liberalisation of strikes;
  • a cut in working hours to 36 hours per week from the current 40;
  • granting broader rights to the State Labour Inspectorate (VDI);
  • increasing unemployment benefit to up to 50% of the previous wage;
  • increasing the maximum duration of unemployment benefit to two years.

The trade unions questioned whether it was worthwhile signing a new national agreement at all and, if so, with which partners. Lithuania’s trade unions, led by the Lithuanian Trade Union Confederation (LPSK), launched a discussion on July 23 focusing on the question ‘Should trade unions negotiate with the current government about the national agreement?’

During the discussion, numerous opinions, often fundamentally different, were expressed. It was finally agreed that the signing of the national agreement might be beneficial for all parties, including trade unions, provided the goals of each party and fundamental agreement guidelines were clearly identified.

Commentary

An overview of the current situation suggests that although debates on the national agreement have been initiated and a few preliminary versions have been prepared or are in progress, it is too early to say whether the agreement will be signed. It is also difficult to predict which parties are likely to sign it. Employers and employees only? Employers, employees and the government? Or, perhaps, employers, employees and other political parties?

At the most recent sitting of the LRTT on the 17 September 2012, social partners agreed to reconsider the question of the signing of the national agreement on 14 October 2012.

Inga Blažiene, Institute of Labour and Social Research

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