Lithuania: Latest working life developments – Q4 2017

The signing of an agreement on reforms crucial to economic growth, collective agreements in the education and healthcare sectors and merger initiatives by several trade unions are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Lithuania in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Agreements signed in two large public sectors

Alongside the tripartite agreement on reforms necessary for the country’s economic growth signed on 16 October 2017, two sectoral agreements were signed in the education and healthcare sectors.

Education

A collective agreement in the education sector (PDF) was signed on 6 November after discussions and collective bargaining lasting more than two years between the Minister for Education and Science, Jurgita Petrauskienė, and representatives of six sectoral trade unions. The agreement is for an unlimited term and became effective on the date it was signed.

The main provisions of the agreement relate to the introduction of a statutory salary for teachers. The agreement provides for the creation of conditions that would lead to higher salaries and better working conditions for university teachers and researchers in 2018–2022. The collective agreement also stipulates that opportunities to increase the salaries of pre-school and pre-primary school teachers are to be discussed each year with the signatory trade unions by 1 June. Furthermore, it was agreed to make it easier to optimise the teachers’ network and to improve networking rules for schools implementing formal education programmes.

Healthcare

After several months of lengthy negotiations, a collective agreement in the healthcare sector (PDF) was signed on 13 December between the Minister for Health, Aurelijus Veryga, and trade unions representing healthcare workers.

The parties agreed to work together in efforts to achieve the sustainable growth of salaries for healthcare professionals. The agreement provides for an increase in the wage bill for healthcare workers by 20% from May 2018, with priority given to the lowest paid. The agreed vision is that, by the middle of 2020, doctors would receive at least three times the average wage in Lithuania and nurses’ average wage would be no less than 1.5 times the national average wage. Likewise, it was also agreed that a procedure for the remuneration of work would be developed by April 2018 that would be linked to the calculated average wage.

The agreement also provides for a review of the Lithuanian Health Programme 2014–2025 and its revision in accordance with trade union proposals. Collective bargaining on the most urgent problems facing medical professionals will be continued.

Trade unions join forces

In addition to the amalgamation of several sectoral trade unions, this quarter also witnessed two main national trade union confederations considering whether to merge.

A meeting of representatives from the merger working groups of the two largest national trade unions – the Lithuanian Trade Union ‘Solidarumas’ (LPS ‘Solidarumas’) and the Lithuanian Trade Union Confederation (LPSK) – to discuss merger opportunities took place in Vilnius on 27 October 2017. According to the trade unions, the new labour code in force in Lithuania from 1 July 2017 has weakened trade unions and made it easier for workers to be made redundant. Concerted efforts by trade unions to protect the rights of their members have therefore become critical. During the meeting, the chairpersons of both trade unions set out the management structure and procedure of collecting membership fees in their respective organisations, and presented their visions of the work of the new amalgamated organisation. Opinions were exchanged as to how to present the merger to the management bodies of both trade unions. It was decided to carry out a survey to identify which enterprises and regions had LPS ‘Solidarumas’ and LPSK members.

On 10 October, the Lithuanian Federation of Roads and Transport Workers (LKADPSF) and the Trade Union of Lithuanian Transport Workers (LADPS) entered into a cooperation agreement and established a joint representation. More active cooperation between the two federations was facilitated by the recently enacted new version of the Law on Public Procurement, which created more favourable conditions for private sector carriers to compete in the transport services market. As municipal enterprises whose workers are affiliated to the two federations experience a weaker competitive position, the amalgamation is expected to make it easier to fight for measures to mitigate against of the negative effects of restructuring processes by such enterprises on their employees.

The constituent assembly of the Association of the Lithuanian Medical Movement (LMS) took place on 15 November. The new association will unite all those with a medical education wishing to join. Both individuals and legal entities, including trade unions, can join the association as full members. LMS submitted its demands – mainly related to salary increases for medical professionals – in a petition signed by more than 40,000 people.

The constituent assembly of the Lithuanian Federation of Education and Science Trade Unions (LŠMPSF) was held on 25 November. This new organisation is the result of the merger of the Lithuanian Teachers’ Trade Union (LMPS) and the Trade Union of Lithuanian Education Institutions’ Employees (LŠĮPS), whose chairman Eugenijus Jesinas was elected to chair the new organisation. The Lithuanian Education Trade Union (LPSU) abandoned its plans to join the merger due to differences of opinion over the wording of the statutes of the new organisation.

On 19 December, the Baltic Organising Alliance (BOA) was established in Riga, the capital of Latvia. The goal of the new organisation is to develop the organisation of its members in the Baltic states in cooperation with Scandinavian countries. According to trade unions, the establishment of BOA is an important step in the development of trade unions within the region to mobilise towards a common goal.

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