Lithuania: Latest working life developments Q3 2018

Lengthy discussions about increasing the minimum monthly wage, protests from cultural workers and correctional officers, and resolutions adopted by national trade union Solidarumas 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 2018.

Government sets minimum wage after social partner impasse

In the third quarter, social partners continued to debate the issue of increasing the minimum monthly wage as of 1 January 2019. Although three meetings took place with this issue on the agenda, social partners were unable to reach a compromise. Representatives from employer organisations held that the minimum monthly wage could only be raised to €420 (or by 5%), representatives of the government believed it should be raised to €430 (or by 7.5%), while trade unions called for it to be increased to €450 (or by 12.5%).

The position of the trade unions was bolstered on 10 August when Luca Visentini, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), sent a letter to the Lithuanian Prime Minister and members of the Tripartite Council entitled ‘Lithuania needs a significant increase of the minimum monthly wage’. The letter expressed the ETUC’s support for the efforts of the Lithuanian trade unions and, in particular, the Lithuanian Trade Union Confederation’s efforts to increase the minimum monthly wage without pushing the ratio between the minimum and average wage to over 50%.

However, as the social partners failed to reach an agreement regarding the increase, the final decision was left to the government. The government subsequently submitted a proposal to parliament to increase the minimum monthly wage by 7.5% from 1 January 2019.

  • ETUC: Lithuania needs a significant increase of the minimum monthly wage

Prison officers and cultural workers call for better conditions

On 11 September, trade unions representing prison officers staged a token protest near the Alytus Correctional House.[1] The trade unions demanded an end to rushed reforms and advocated entering into negotiations. According to the organisers of the protest (representatives of trade unions for pre-trial investigation institutions in Lithuania), decisions are being made unilaterally and in no one’s best interests, while reforms are being pushed forward without consultation with trade unions and which are unfavourable to officers. The trade unions claim that officers will hold mass demonstrations if this situation continues. Representatives of the Ministry of Justice and Prison Department maintain that the reforms are inevitable and say they are ready to enter dialogue with the trade unions.

On 17 September, cultural workers held a protest calling for higher wages.[2] They prepared a petition, which stated the following:

The community in the field of culture is disappointed about negotiations with the Ministry of Culture and other public authorities on pay increases for employees in the cultural sector in 2019 ... Salaries for cultural and artistic workers have not increased since 2016 and are the lowest in Lithuania’s public sector.

In 2017, the net average monthly wage for employees in the cultural field was €593. The Minister for Culture, who came to meet participants in the protest, promised to do her best to ensure a €75 monthly pay increase for cultural workers from 2019. A working group was established to facilitate this, with representatives from the Ministry of Culture, trade unions, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Social Security and Labour, and the Association of Local Authorities in Lithuania. It was further agreed that the final decision regarding wage increases for cultural workers would be issued by 1 November.

Solidarumas lays out its future plans

At its congress on 6 July, peak national trade union Solidarumas adopted a number of initiatives that are historically not typical of Lithuanian trade unions.[3] The initiatives covered the following topics:

  • the National Agreement and wage policies
  • tax reform
  • implementation of the new Labour Code, with a view to strengthening trade union rights
  • strengthening trade unions in the context of the implementation of the National Agreement
  • implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights
  • the posting of workers, particularly in the transport sector
  • social guarantees for abandoned children
  • developing and strengthening social dialogue (sectoral collective agreements)

The trade union plans to implement actions or produce recommendations/proposals for relevant authorities for all of the points listed above.

In addition, ‘in order to prevent employer-related abuse’, the coordination council of Solidarumas – in cooperation with the State Labour Inspectorate – established a labour inspection of TU Solidarumas and approved its Regulations on 25 September.[4] The Regulations stipulated that ‘the labour inspection of Solidarumas is a special management body for control and supervision of the rules and standards in certain areas laid down in labour laws’. Trade union members willing to become labour inspectors can apply to the chairpersons of their respective trade unions.

 

[1] Profsajungu Naujienos (2018), Piketuos pataisos įstaigų pareigūnai , 10 September.

[2] Profsajungu Naujienos (2018), Kultūros ministrė pažadėjo siekti didesnio algų kilimo , 17 September.

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