Lithuania: latest working life developments Q2 2018
The efforts of trade unions to prevent the adoption of tax and pensions reforms, and new collective agreements in the social services and healthcare sectors are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Lithuania in the second quarter of 2018.
Trade union protests against reforms are unsuccessful
In the second quarter of 2018, a package of tax and pension reforms were proposed by the government. Dissatisfied with the content of the reforms, how quickly the package had been developed and the lack of consultation with social partners, Lithuanian trade unions responded with numerous protest campaigns.
On 21 April, the coordination council of trade union Solidarumas released a statement regarding the tax and pension reforms. It expressed its concerns that the reforms not only failed to address key problems, such as the insufficient collection of taxes and the reduction of social inequality, but actually made them worse.
On 10 May, a discussion on the effects of the reforms on the public sector was held at Vilnius University. The meeting was attended by representatives of the Movement of Associations of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Lithuanian Medical Movement, the Lithuanian Education Employees Trade Union (LEETU), and the Lithuanian Social Workers’ Association. A statement released by these groups following the discussion also criticised the reforms.
The following day, the sixth congress of the Lithuanian Trade Union Confederation (LPSK) adopted an address to the parliament and government on the tax and pension reforms. The address expressed concerns that ‘the tax reform is headed in a doubtful direction and will serve only to benefit the high earners of the country’. It also set out a number of requirements with regard to the direction of the reforms.
Despite the reaction from the trade unions and society, the government approved the package of structural tax and pension reforms and submitted it for parliamentary consideration on 23 May. The trade unions continued with active discussions on the anticipated reforms, including with parliamentary members. In the absence of adequate support from authorities, the LPSK organised a protest in front of the parliament building on 20 June, and Solidarumas picketed near the same building on 21 June.
A second picket line was organised by the Lithuanian trade unions on 28 June, which was the day that the reforms were due to be adopted by the parliament. Disregarding these actions, the parliament approved the legislation package in its entirety. The trade unions then appealed to President Dalia Grybauskaitė on 29 June, asking her to veto the adopted legal acts. However, this attempt met with deaf ears and on 30 June, President Grybauskaitė approved all the legal acts adopted by parliament in relation to the tax and pension reforms.
Medical professionals and teachers push for changes in public sector
On 26 April, a rally organised by the Lithuanian Medical Movement – ‘What will you offer to the medical profession tomorrow?’ – took place near the parliament building. Teachers, cultural workers and social workers participated alongside medical personnel, bearing the slogan ‘For the State and its future together with the medical staff!’. The determination to pursue changes in the public sector had previously been confirmed on 12 April when medical professionals, teachers and scientists signed a joint referral to the general public and government representatives. The requirements submitted in the referral included implementation of a realistic tax system reform; a steady increase in public financing for education and science, healthcare, culture and social security; and the development of a fair remuneration system for public sector employees.
Sectoral collective agreements boost wages
On 18 May, three years of negotiations between the Ministry of Social Security and Labour and trade unions finally concluded with the signing of a collective agreement for the social services sector. The agreement ensures that signatory trade union members receive a 15% pay increase on average and more social guarantees. It will be reviewed annually, so further negotiations on better working conditions for social workers are expected in the future.
The 2017 sectoral collective agreement covering the Lithuanian national health system (LNSS) was amended in the second quarter of 2018. On 4 May, organisations representing the medical profession and the Ministry of Health signed Annex 2, which lays down the remuneration procedure for healthcare professionals and introduces a ‘wage floor’ for workers. The agreement ensures that higher funds for medical institutions will ensure wage growth for medical staff (especially low earners). In the second half of 2020, it is planned to increase the salaries of doctors and nurses to 3 and 1.5 times the average national salary respectively.