Lithuania: Latest working life developments – Q3 2017
Interpretation of new Labour Code provisions, legislative amendments to strengthen trade unions, and several initiatives of the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists on social issues are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Lithuania in the third quarter of 2017.
Interpretation of new Labour Code provisions
After 1 July 2017, when the new Labour Code took effect, all of the parties concerned (employers, trade unions, public institutions and private consultants) devoted a lot of time and effort to interpreting its provisions. Employers, trade unions and public institutions (particularly the state labour inspectorate) held meetings, seminars and training sessions in connection with the interpretation and application of the new provisions.
Considerable attention was given to provisions relating to:
- the conclusion and validity of collective agreements;
- interplay between trade unions and works councils;
- lockouts (a new feature in Lithuanian legislation);
- the minimum monthly wage;
- termination of employment contracts;
- gender (in)equality and other related issues.
The state labour inspectorate, together with the social partners, decided to implement a project – the Model of cooperation between trade unions and employers in developing social dialogue – offering training courses to the public on the amendments to the Labour Code. These courses give advice on issues related to pay and working conditions, collective bargaining and collective agreements, as well as the powers of trade unions and works councils.
Legislative amendments to strengthen trade unions
A draft legislative package approved by the Lithuanian Parliament on 21 September 2017 is also (partly) related to the introduction of the new Labour Code. If adopted, the proposed amendments are expected to strengthen trade unions’ bargaining power. The amendments cover the law on trade unions, the law on the state labour inspectorate and the regulation of administrative court procedure.
It is proposed to amend the trade union law by inserting a provision that employers will be obliged to allow union officials to take at least 120 hours off work per year to perform their duties (instead of the current 60 hours). Another proposal is that employers will be required to notify and consult their company’s trade union prior to deciding group redundancies, and to seek mutually acceptable solutions.
Proposed amendments to the law on the state labour inspectorate are aimed at obliging the inspectorate to give advice to employees who wish to establish a trade union. So far, this duty has not been clearly defined in the law and employees often face problems and uncertainties when trying to establish a union.
Amendments to the regulation of administrative court procedures are intended to promote alternative (out-of-court) resolutions of labour disputes. The reading of the legislative bill is scheduled for 23 November, after committee approval.
Social initiatives of Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists
In the third quarter of 2017, the main national employers’ confederation, the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists (LPK), placed particular emphasis on social issues in response to the needs of the labour market and its members. On 12 September, the presidium of the LPK approved the establishment of a health committee. This is in response to the needs of LPK members and to the considerable attention paid by the government to public health issues.
The shortage of adequately qualified labour in the labour market also led to the LPK concentrating much of its attention on the vocational training and employment of nationals of non-EU countries. Guidelines for reforming the Lithuanian vocational education and training system, in which LPK is also actively involved, were presented on 30 August. Robertas Dargis, President of the LPK, said that high quality vocational education and training in line with labour market needs is crucial for ensuring the competitiveness of the country – and its move towards high-tech and digital-technology-based modern industry which offers substantial productivity, generates a lot of added value, and is capable of competing at international level.
At the end of September, the LPK held an open consultation to discuss liberalising the employment of nationals of non-EU countries, and the possible legislative amendments involved. The meeting was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Social Security and Labour, the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Migration Department, chief executives of business companies and human resource managers. Business representatives not only listened to reports, but also expressed their business expectations and needs.
At the end of September, the LPK held an open consultation meeting to discuss employment of third country nationals in Lithuania. The meeting was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Social Security and Labour, Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Migration Department, chief executives of business companies and HR managers who discussed liberalisation of third country nationals’ employment and legislative amendments. Business representatives not only heard reports, but also actively participated in the meeting and expressed their business expectations and needs.