First collective agreement in healthcare signed

Social dialogue has been slow-moving in the public sector in Lithuania and not one sectoral collective agreement has been signed so far in this sector. A new social dialogue institution in the health sector – the Tripartite Council of the National Health System of Lithuania – was established in May 2013. In September, the parties of the council agreed to draw up and sign a collective agreement covering the whole sector. This agreement could be the first on such a large scale in Lithuania.

Background

On 19 March 2013, representatives of employee and employer organisations in healthcare held a meeting to discuss the creation of the Tripartite Council of the National Health System of Lithuania (LNSSTT). The council was established on 7 May 2013.

The LNSSTT consists of 21 representatives from executive authorities in the field of health, national associations representing employees, and national associations representing employer organisations. Each group has seven members.

Decisions of the Tripartite Council are reached by agreement of all three groups. The council aims to co-ordinate the interests of the workers, public healthcare and pharmaceutical professionals, employers in the area of health promotion and the state. It was agreed Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, the Minister for Health of the Republic of Lithuania, would be Chair of the council for the first six months.

Collective agreement discussed

At the meeting of the LNSSTT of 3 September 2013, the parties agreed to prepare a sectoral collective agreement to apply to the whole health sector. According to Lithuania’s Ministry of Health, a working group will be set up to discuss the agreement. This will consist of representatives from Lithuanian medical workers’ trade unions, employers and national executive authorities in the area of healthcare.

It was decided three members from each group would sit on the working group and three experts would be invited to contribute. The working group will also be mandated to update, modify and adjust collective employment agreements signed at enterprise level.

Health Minister Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, in his role as Chair of the LNSSTT, said that the forthcoming collective agreement is expected ‘to govern the fundamental obligations of employers and employees in the Lithuanian national health system, employment relations, leave, salaries, working conditions and other issues’. Andriukaitis said the collective agreement was intended to implement the provision of ‘equal pay for equal work’.

The LNSSTT’s figures show that even though there are a number of trade unions representing medical workers in the country, only around one third of all healthcare institutions have collective employment agreements in place. Not all institutions have functioning trade unions or labour councils.

Sectoral collective agreement

Importantly, one sectoral collective agreement in the Lithuanian health sector was signed in the spring of 2013. It was registered at the Ministry of Social Security and Labour in June 2103. This agreement was signed within the framework of a project funded by the European Social Fund, one of a number intended to promote social dialogue (LT1202019I). The agreement was signed between the Lithuanian Medical Workers’ Trade Union (LMDPS) and the Association of Medical Service Companies (MPIA).

The agreement lays down general provisions on its validity, regulates the issues of entering into, amendment and/or termination of employment contracts, and set out details of issues such as work organisation, work and rest time, remuneration for work, working conditions and guarantees for trade union activities. The agreement is valid for three years and applies to MPIA members only.

Commentary

If plans for the collective agreement in healthcare go ahead, it will be a big step forward for social dialogue in Lithuania’s public sector, the standard of which has been poor so far. If agreement can be reached in the healthcare sector, it will be one of the first of this scale and magnitude in the country.

Inga Blaziene, Institute of Labour of the Lithuanian Social Research Centre

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