Lithuania: Latest working life developments - Q1 2018
Protest actions in the public sector, the first report from the State Labour Inspectorate on the application of the new Labour Code, and initiatives to foster social dialogue are the main topics of this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Lithuania in the first quarter of 2018.
Protest action by medical and police staff
On 4 January, the Lithuanian Medical Movement and resident doctors organised a rally demanding education and training of practitioners to meet modern standards, improved social guarantees and fair remuneration for arduous, responsible and risky work. The protesters called for the Ministry of Health and the Lithuanian government to create an action plan and draft legislation for real reforms of the healthcare system.
The two main trade union organisations – the Lithuanian Trade Union Confederation (LPSK) and Solidarumas – supported the protest.
On 11 March, police trade unions organised a token strike. According to trade unions, police officers have received threats and even indirect sanctions for expressing critical views regarding management decisions. Police officers gathered in protest near the Lithuanian Parliament building with their mouths sealed shut as a symbol of the systematic violations of their rights and freedoms.
Report on the impact of the new Labour Code
On 13 February, the State Labour Inspectorate (SLI) presented a report on the implementation of the new Labour Code (LC), which came into force in Lithuania on 1 July 2017. The SLI presented the results of the first six months of the new LC to social partners at the sitting of the Tripartite Council of the Republic of Lithuania (TCRL). It is expected that the true impact of the new LC will become clear during 2018; however, according to the SLI and Ministry of Social Security and Labour (MSSL), initial positive changes were already visible in the second half of 2017.
- Average wage increased and the share of employees paid minimum monthly wage or less decreased (from 22% in August 2016 to 16.2% in August 2017). This was influenced by a new provision introduced in the new LC, whereby the minimum wage can only be paid for unskilled jobs.
- To a limited degree, employers and employees took advantage of new types of contracts; altogther 133 employment contracts for several employers, 11 job-sharing employment contracts, 154 apprenticeship employment contracts and 887 project-based employment contracts were signed.
- Only 125 employment contracts were terminated at the demand of the employer. This accounts for as few as 0.04% of the total employment contracts terminated during that period.
- The SLI received 1094 notifications regarding the setting up of works councils (submission of such notifications to the SLI is obligatory under the new LC).
- The Labour Disputes Commission received 20% more applications for labour dispute resolutions, compared with the same period in 2016. According to the SLI, the process became more economic and efficient, evidenced by an increased number of satisfied applicants and more peace treaties approved by decisions.
Initiatives to foster social dialogue
In the national tripartite agreement on reforms necessary for the country’s progress, the government, employers' and trade union organisations made commitments to promote and strengthen the bargaining powers of employees.
In February, the MSSL met with representatives from trade unions, employers and the non-governmental sector to discuss measures to strengthen social dialogue and employees’ bargaining powers. The meetings showed that the parties have, in substance, similar proposals. In particular, they focus on enhancing security (including protection measures for representatives and leaders); improving conditions for employee representatives’ activity; inclusion and enhanced quality of social dialogue to agree on common objectives; development of a debating culture rather than disagreements between the parties; and leadership development. The social partners stress that the measures must apply both to trade unions and employers, thus contributing to the development of social dialogue.
On 16 April, the government announced a consultation on a package of six new reforms in the areas of labour and wealth taxation and changes in social insurance, as well as in education, healthcare, innovation and the shadow economy. The government believes that the foreseen reforms will have a significant positive impact on living standards and participation in the labour market. The reforms are expected to spark mass debate among social partners during the month ahead.