New rules give trade unions extended rights

A debate has been going on in Lithuania over a number of years on reforms to trade union rules. On 28 June 2013, the Law on Trade Unions was finally amended to give extra rights to Lithuanian workers. The new rules mean everyone, not just those working with employment contracts, are eligible to join a trade union. Sectoral trade unions have also been given extra rights. Trade union representatives have been guaranteed 60 paid working hours a year to carry out union activities.

Amendments to union law

Union membership in Lithuania is low – about 10% of all employees. The unions are divided into three main confederations, the Lithuanian Trade Union Confederation (LPSK), the Lithuanian Labour Federation (LDF) and Solidarumas. They are divided – historically at least – on ideological grounds. However, the confederations are now working together more closely.

There has been an ongoing debate over changes made to Lithuania’s Law on Trade Unions almost six years ago (LT0707029I). Fundamental amendments to the legislation were made after discussions in the summer and the new rules came into force on 28 June 2013.

Membership of trade unions

In line with European Union Council Directive 2003/109/EC of 25 November 2003, the new amendments to Lithuania’s Law on Trade Unions stipulates that founders of trade unions can be not only citizens of the Republic of Lithuania, but also third-country nationals capable of working.

Amendments to the law also state that anyone over the age of 14 – including students, the unemployed and people who have retired – may join sectoral, local and national trade unions. However, members of a company’s trade union have to be employees of that company.

Trade union members who do not have employment contracts have all the rights and duties of trade unionists as laid down in the articles of association (statute) of a trade union. The only exception is that they do not have the right to vote:

  • when the trade union adopts decisions on calling a strike,
  • on the conclusion and performance of collective agreements, and other issues likely to have effects on the rights and duties of employees or individuals working on other statutory bases.

Structure of trade unions

The Law on Trade Unions sets out the terms and conditions that a trade union in a company must fulfil in order to be considered representative.

Until the recent amendments were made, employers were not sure whether trade unions not entered in the Register of Legal Persons could carry out their activities in the company and represent its employees.

The amendments to the law now regulate the principle of sectoral, local and national trade unions operating in companies. This provision guarantees sectoral trade unions the right to freely establish their structural units and legally operate and conclude collective agreements in various companies. The basis for the establishment and functioning of a trade union’s units in companies will be defined in the articles of association (statues) of the relevant sectoral, territorial or national trade union organisation.

Guarantees to members of trade unions

The amendments to the Law on Trade Unions ensure equal rights for members of works councils and union representative bodies. Members of a trade union’s representative body are now allowed to spend 60 paid working hours a year on trade union activities and will be paid their average wage or salary for the days when they carry out union duties.

A trade union is obliged to submit to the employer a list showing the names of employees elected to the representative bodies of the trade union.

During discussions about collective agreements, an employee acting as an employee representative may be granted more paid hours to carry out union activities.

Strengthening of trade unions’ control mechanism

Monitoring employers’ compliance with industrial relations regulations is delegated to trade unions under Article 33 of the Labour Code. Article 17 of the Law on Trade Unions gives trade unions the right to supervise the employer’s adherence to and implementation of labour, economic and social legislation, collective agreements and observance of the rights and interests of the employees represented by them. Trade unions may have access to inspectorates, legal advice services and other institutions to help them fufil this function.

The amended law makes it clear that employers have a duty to help unions exercise their function of control:

…the employer shall provide authorised representatives designated by the trade union to perform the function of control with information requested by them on the labour, economic and social conditions, and shall guarantee their right to perform other functions set forth in Article 17 of the law.

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

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