Lithuania: Latest working life developments Q4 2018

A national collective agreement on the basic level of pay for state officials, a proposal regarding quotas for foreign workers, and protest campaigns organised by cultural workers, forensic medical staff and teachers 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 2018.

Basic level of pay for state officials formally agreed

On 5 November, a national collective agreement on the basic level of pay for employees in the state sector was signed for the first time in Lithuania by the government and three trade unions: the Lithuanian Trade Union Confederation (LPSK), the national trade union Sandrauga and the National Joint Trade Union. The agreement covers the calculation of salaries for all civil servants, employees of state and municipal budgetary institutions, state officials, judges, soldiers and state politicians. The parties agreed that the basic level of pay would be increased to €173 (an increase of 1.29%) from 1 January 2019.

However, the national trade union LPS Solidarumas refused to sign the agreement and on 5 November, the union picketed near the government building in protest against the insufficient increase in the basic salary of state officials. According to its representatives, the 1.29% increase will be significantly below inflation, which is forecast to rise by 2.5% in Lithuania in 2019. [1]

Employment quotas for foreign workers under consideration

In light of the rapid increase in migration flows from Ukraine to Lithuania, the government is considering the introduction of quotas for third-country workers in certain professions. An interdepartmental working group, set up by order of the Minister of the Interior to improve migration procedures, proposed that the issue of quotas for third-country workers should be considered at the Tripartite Council of the Republic of Lithuania. A final decision would be taken by the government after consideration of the arguments put forward by the Tripartite Council.

After much debate, this model was approved at a meeting of the Tripartite Council on 16 October. In accordance with the model, the council agreed to establish quotas for third-country workers in occupations that are experiencing labour shortages, with the first quota due to be introduced in 2021.

During the meeting, the issue received considerable criticism from employer organisation representatives who opposed the introduction of such quotas. They claimed that the quotas could have an adverse effect on certain sectors of the economy, such as the transport sector. Trade union representatives, on the other hand, supported the quotas and argued that the employment of third-country workers in Lithuania had already caused ‘social dumping’ in the form of the mass replacement of local workers by third-country nationals. They submitted their proposals on this issue to the Ministry of the Interior. [2]

In connection with the proposed quotas, the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists (LPK) held a consultative meeting regarding policy matters on 20 November 2018. The meeting was attended by representatives of the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Social Security and Labour, and the Migration Department. The topics on the agenda included amendments to the regulation on the legal status of foreigners and the mechanism for future quota setting.

Protest campaigns by cultural workers, forensic medical staff and teachers

On 22 October, the Lithuanian Guild of Actors trade union held a protest near the Lithuanian Parliament building under a ‘We are not nobodies’ banner to express their dissatisfaction with the decision to cut budget allocations for the cultural sector. The trade union demanded a 50% wage increase for actors in national and state theatres from 1 January 2019 and a further 30% rise from 1 January 2020. The protest included 70 actors from various theatres and different cities and towns. [3]

On 26 October, the Forensic Medical Workers’ Trade Union organised a picket in front of the Ministry of Health under the banner ‘A forensic medical doctor is also a doctor’. The trade union’s representatives demanded higher pay for forensic medical workers and warned of their plans to organise a partial strike unless demands were met. [4]

On 12 November, the Trade Union of Lithuanian Educational Employees (LŠDPS) went on indefinite strike in protest against the new model of remuneration for teachers (in primary and secondary education, informal education and vocational education) that was introduced from the beginning of September 2018. [5] Under the new model, teachers are paid for the position they hold, but not for the number of (class) contact hours they teach. According to the LŠDPS, the strike was a result of unwillingness on the part of the authorities to settle the problems through negotiation.

The LŠDPS has demanded that the recently introduced system is replaced by a new model that provides for a maximum of 18 (class) contact hours per full-time teacher position. Teachers have also insisted on a 20% increase in the coefficients of the fixed part of the official salary and a reduction in class sizes. According to the LŠDPS, around 130 educational institutions were on strike by 10 December.

On 27 November, a group of striking teachers occupied the Ministry of Education and Science. They had come for negotiations and were determined to remain there until an agreement was reached. The teachers spent more than three weeks in the ministry building before leaving on 19 December.

On 9 December, a mass protest action entitled ‘The last call’ was organised in Vilnius to show solidarity with teachers. Among the protesters were representatives of other trade unions in other sectors (medical professionals, social workers, cultural workers, law enforcement officers, etc.) and thousands of people expressed their support for teachers. [6] About 6,000 people took part in the protest and demanded that the budgetary procedure be halted and the salaries of teachers increased. Efforts to bring the situation under control included the firing of the Minister for Education and Science, and a meeting between the president and trade union representatives followed by amendments to the teachers’ pay model.

Outlook

In order to tackle the problem of remuneration for work in the public sector, the government set up a commission which started work on 6 December. The commission is due to provide parliament with a draft strategy for the sustainable financing of the salaries of public sector employees until 2025. Instruments delivered by the commission are expected to lead to the implementation of a balanced financing system and sustainable changes throughout the public sector in Lithuania.


Footnotes

  1. ^ LPS Solidarumas (2018), Lietuvos profesinė sąjunga ‘Solidarumas’ piketavo prieš Vyriausybės planus nepakankamai didinti valstybinio sektoriaus darbuotojų atlyginimus , 6 November
  2. ^ LPS Solidarumas (2018), Lietuvos profesinė sąjunga 'Solidarumas‘ pateikė pasiūlymus kaip stabdyti socialinį dempingą Lietuvoje , 7 September
  3. ^ LPSK (2018), Aktoriai ir kiti kultūros darbuotojai nusiteikę ryžtingai
  4. ^ LPS Solidarumas (2018), Teismo medicinos darbuotojų profesinė sąjunga piketuos prie Sveikatos apsaugos ministerijos , 23 October
  5. ^ Profsajungu Naujienos (2018), Prasideda mokyklų streikas: truks mažiausiai dvi savaites , 12 November
  6. ^ 15min.lt (2018), Vilniuje vyko masinis protestas ‚Paskutinis skambutis‘: reikalavo pagarbos ir atšaukti etatinį apmokėjimą , 9 December

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