Worker participation - Latvia

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Ivars Vanadzins, Riga Stradins University, Latvia, and Gediminas Vilkevicius, Aleksandras Stulginskis University, Lithuania

Introduction

Latvia has a formally well set system of social dialogue with several participation mechanisms, but real worker participation in social dialogue is not well established especially in small and medium sized companies. The article describes both direct and indirect forms of worker participation in social dialogue with a focus on formal participation structures (legal instruments) and available statistics on real situation. An overview of methods of worker participation can be found in Methods and effects of worker participation and Occupational safety and health management systems and workers’ participation.

Regulatory framework for worker participation

The Latvian system for occupational safety and health (OSH) contains main principles of social dialogue (e.g. all aspects of workers representation) and these are primarily set by the main legal document in this area in Latvia – Labour Protection Law [1]. Some aspects of workers participation are covered by other main regulatory framework law – Labour Law [2]. Besides that some other legal regulations provide additional regulative setting for workers participation throught trade unions and at national level.

The Labour Protection Law [1] sets the main provisions for employers responsibility towards ensuring worker participation and fully functional social dialogue. To ensure this Labour Protection Law describes, among other requirements, the obligation for “co-operation in the field of labour protection with the employees and the trusted representatives” as one of the general principles of the Latvian OSH system. In addition, the Law requires that companies must carry out consultations with employees as part of the organisation of OSH management system at the company.

Requirements of Labour Law [2] are mostly intended to ensure the workers rights for representing their interests in company, including also those in the area of occupational safety and health. Mostly the Labour Laws deal with employees rights to participate in trade unions or to be elected as employees’ representatives.

OSH and worker participation

The formal structures for worker representation are mostly sectorial, and involvement rates are not high, with some sectors lacking any representation at all. Furthermore, Latvian social partnership as an instrument of regulation for industrial relations does not have long lasting traditions or real power. Most actively social dialogue is developed in areas like social and economic policy and relations between employers and employees; however this only rarely extends to occupational safety and health.

Despite relatively well established legal framework and mechanisms the real workers participation in any form of organized social dialogue are very poor. The latest data available from survey “Working conditions and risks in Latvia 2012-2013” (according to employers answers) shows that only 9.1% of all companies have elected workers representatives, 4.8% have trade unions and 8.7% have employee’s trusties. This situation is especially bad in small and medium sized companies as shown in table 1 while workers representation in larger companies are significantly better. Situation has improved a little during last years especially in companies with 10-49 workers but representation is still quite low. The same survey shows that representation rates reported by workers are slightly higher but still in line with those reported by employers (14.4% of companies have employee representatives, 13.9% - trade union members and 10.7% - employee trustees) [3].

'Table 1: Participation rates of various worker participation forms in Latvia in 2006, 2010 and 2013

Table1 Type of representation.png

Source: Working conditions and risks in Latvia 2009-2010 [4], Working conditions and risks in Latvia 2012-2013 [3]

There are several levels of workers participation and representation (social dialogue) in Latvia: national, sectorial and company. To some extent limited activities and settings exists also in regional level. All these are described in the following chapters in more detail.

National level of social dialogue

At the Latvian national level the system for social dialogue is formally well developed. For example, already in 1998 the National Tripartite collaboration council was established by the Cabinet of Ministers [5]. The Council functions as part of the State Office under direct supervision of the Prime Minister and comprises a working group consisting of members of the Cabinet of Ministers and state secretaries of selected ministries, representatives of the Latvian Free Trade Union Confederation (Latvijas Brīvo arodbiedrību savienība) [6] and representatives of the Employers’ Confederation of Latvia (Latvijas Darba devēju konfederācija) [7]. The National Tripartite collaboration council has 8 sub-councils including council for labour issues. This form of collaboration has been further strengthened from 2004 when additional tripartite agreement was concluded.

The Labour Sub-council of National Tripartite Collaboration Council works in accordance with their establishment regulations [8]. The main tasks of the Labour Sub-council is to promote collaboration of state, employers and employees in the area of occupational safety and health, legal issues of labour relations and equal opportunities in the area of labour rights. To achieve this the Sub- council has different functions including reconciliation of legal acts in the area of OSH. This forum offers the opportunity for workers representation, even though in this case representation is possible only for trade union members.

Sectorial level

Former trade unions from Soviet Union time have failed to achieve high representation rates and workers involvement while employers organisations are relatively recently developed and have managed to entice only small percentage of employers.

Social dialogue at sectorial level is not well developed in Latvia mostly because, only few sectors are represented and the participation rates are not high. However, the Latvian Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia [6] is also active at the sectorial level. It is a confederation currently joining 20 sectorial trade unions and is the largest non-governmental organisation in Latvia coordinating the collaboration between independent trade unions representing and protecting the interests of its members in national and international institutions. The Latvian Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia was established in 1990, and it establishment and work are defined in the Law on Trade unions [9].

The purpose of the Latvian Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia is to protect the interests of trade union members. The main principle of trade unions work is solidarity and joint coordinated actions of the affiliates. The confederation represents its members' interests and protects their rights in the socio economic field. Together with the government and the Latvian Employers' Confederation the Latvian Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia works in the National Tripartite Cooperation Council. The Latvian Free Trade Union Confederation observes the principles of social dialogue in cooperation with the social partners and also participates in the elaboration of economic and social development programmes. In addition, the evaluation of draft laws, in working groups on improvement of labour conditions, salaries, tariff policies, compulsory social insurance and social guaranties, healthcare as well as employment, vocational education and lifelong learning.

The Latvian Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia has 20 different branch (sectorial) trade unions mostly uniting workers of particular sectors from construction industry to nursing and health care as well as some independent trade unions that has developed recently in parallel to their (e.g. Independent trade union of policemen (Neatkarīgā policistu arodbiedrība) more senior ones. More details on this system could be found in article on National OSH system – Latvia.

Collective agreements

The Latvian Free Trade Union Confederation is actively working in setting up collective agreements. According to Labour Law [2] collective agreements could also be concluded at sectorial level by employer, a group of employers, an organisation of employers or an association of organisations of employers, and an employee trade union or an association (union) of employee trade unions. Such agreements are binding on members of the organisation or the association of organisations. The latest survey data shows that only 14.9% of all companies have concluded such agreements with this rate being significantly different among companies of different sizes (only 12.3 of companies with 1-10 workers have collective agreements as opposed to 60.5% of large companies employing more than 250 workers) [3].

The Labour Law [2] also foresees that if members of an employers’ organisation or an employers’ association organisations employ more than 50% of the employees in a sector, or the turnover of their goods or the amount of services is more than 60% of the turnover of goods or amount of services of that particular sector, a general agreement entered into between the organisation of employers or association of organisations of employers and an employee trade union or an association (union) of employee trade unions is required to be binding on all employers of the relevant sector and will apply to all employees employed by such employers. Such agreements enter into force after official publication. In practice content of general collective agreements are different among various sectors, however mostly they cover issues like payment or working time. In some cases the issues of occupational safety and health are also covered. These agreements are more common for public sector, e.g. education or health care.

Another issue found out by the survey [3] is that employers trust in ability of trade unions or workers representatives to control the collective agreements are rather limited (only 19% of employers think that social partners are “good” at controlling of fulfillment of collective agreement).

Company level

Social dialogue at enterprise level in Latvia is legally well established, but the practical implementation is lagging behind (see survey data above). General requirements on social dialogue are described in the Labour Protection Law [1] where definitions of terms like „consultations”, „representative of employees” and „trusted representatives” are provided. On the other hand legal opportunity for social dialogue is also foreseen by the Labour Law [2] providing opportunity for employees to elect representatives to protect their rights in the area of labour rights. Another important feature of the Latvian social dialogue system is that there are no different requirements for private and public sector and / or company size.

Formal social dialogue

Current situation is providing good opportunity for workers to be involved in formal social dialogue, but at the same time there is confusion as there are various legal opportunities for social dialogue – trade union representatives (trade union members working in particular company), representatives of employees (as referred to in Labour Law) and trusted representatives (as referred to in Labour Protection Law). In practice it could mean that within one company there could be both representation by trade union members and trusted representatives elected by workers.

Unfortunately the trade unions are not widely represented in companies and even in the sector with highest representation rate – health care and social care only 48.2% companies have trade union representatives while this rate is around or less than 5% in other sectors (food processing – 5.1%, wood and sewage services – 4.2%, energy production – 4.1%, wood processing – 2.7%, construction – 1.4%) [3].

Workers’ rights to be represented are guaranteed for companies employing more than five employees and the general requirement is that more than 50% of workers shall be represented in the election procedure. If at least two trusted representatives are elected in the company they shall elect a principal trusted representative among themselves. If at least ten trusted representatives are elected they shall establish a trusted representative committee which shall co-ordinate the work of the trusted representatives.

It is also important to note that according to the Labour Protection Law [1] election of an employee as a trusted representative may not cause him unfavourable consequences or restrict in other way his or her rights.

An employer is obliged to ensure the necessary means to the trusted representatives and grant them the time during working hours for fulfillment of the obligations. The employer is also obliged to pay the trusted representative average earnings for this time. Another important aspect to improve the quality of social dialogue and involvement of workers is requirement to provide special training to trusted representatives. According to “Regulations Regarding Training in Labour Protection Matters” [10] employers have to provide 40 hours OSH training to elected trusted representatives.

Article 21 of the Labour Protection Law [1] describes in details rights of the trusted representatives including rights to express opinion, receive information, access workplaces and propose measures to improve working conditions. The main principle is that the trusted representative shall participate in the performance of the internal supervision of the working environment, including workplace risk assessment, planning or OSH activities, investigation of accidents at work and cases of occupational diseases as well as in general to co-operate with the employer and the company OSH expert in improvement of the working conditions in the company.

This however is not happening very often as the recent survey “Working conditions and risks in Latvia 2012-2013” [3] showed that trusted representative have participated in only 23.8% of workplace risk assessments.

Trusted representatives are granted the following rights:

  • To express freely both justified opinion of employees and his/her own opinion regarding the OSH system of the company.
  • To receive the information related to the OSH system in the company that is necessary for the fulfilment of the obligations of the trusted representative from the employer.
  • To access workplaces.
  • To propose that the employer performs measurements of the working environment risk factors if complaints from employees have been received regarding working environment risk factors harmful to health.
  • To propose to perform a repeated evaluation of the working environment risks at the workplaces where an accident has occurred or serious and imminent threats to the life and health of an employee have arisen.
  • To request that the employer takes OSH measures and to make proposals the implementation of which would prevent or reduce the risks to the safety and health of employees.
  • To propose that the employer enters into an agreement with employees regarding the determination of OSH measures as well as to participate in negotiations regarding the conditions of a collective agreement and amendments in the field of OSH.
  • To participate in inspections of workplaces together with officials of the State Labour Inspectorate (Valsts Darba inspekcija) [11].

According to Labour Protection Law [1] the employer has an obligation to consult with employees or trusted representatives in the field of occupational safety and health as well as to ensure that the trusted representatives have an opportunity to participate in the meetings regarding the issues relating to:

  • The measures which may affect the safety and health of employees.
  • The establishment and activities of the organisational structure of the labour protection.
  • The designation of those employees to whom the provision of first aid and taking of measures regarding fire fighting and evacuation of employees has been entrusted.
  • The internal supervision of the working environment, and informing of employees regarding labour protection, also in cases, when working with another employer or several employers.
  • The planning and organisation of instruction and training in the field of labour protection.
  • Other labour protection issues.

According to the latest survey data in the companies that have any form of workers representation the most common issues discussed with these representatives are working conditions in general (41.5%), results of workplace risk assessment (24.1%), wages (21.0%), vacations (17.2%), work contracts (15.9%), working time (14.2%) and additional bonuses (13.8%) [3].

Informal social dialogue

Both the Labour Protection Law [1] and also the Cabinet Regulation No 660 “Procedures for the Performance of Internal Supervision of the Work Environment” [12] foresees that employer shall inform employees and trusted representatives regarding the working environment risks, the overall labour protection measures in the undertaking and those labour protection measures which are directly relating to each workplace and type of work. The requirements of the Cabinet Regulation No 660 “Procedures for the Performance of Internal Supervision of the Work Environment” [12] also foresee that employees or their representatives shall participate in workplace risk assessment. However according to recent survey data (Working conditions and risks in Latvia 2009-2010 [4]) only 19% of employees took part in the risk assessment done at their workplace and while 59% didn’t had chance to do it (another 11% stated that no risk assessment has been done, 4% - that the assessment was very formal, 4% - my colleagues took part in the assessment).

Another important obligation of the employer is the provision of information regarding:

  • The results of the evaluation of the workplace risks.
  • The OSH measures determined by the employer and the protective equipment to be used.
  • Accidents at work and cases of occupational diseases.
  • Explanations, opinions and instructions of the State Labour Inspectorate regarding OSH issues as well as warnings, orders and decisions of the State Labour Inspectorate relating to the labour protection system in the company.

The survey “Working conditions and risks in Latvia 2012-2013” [3] shows that this requirement is generally well obeyed as 93.6% of workers were informed on requirements for safe and healthy work and risks at workplaces, 89.9% were informed on their actions in case of fire and 73.0% of employees were informed on possible emergency situations at their workplaces.

An employer is not only person responsible for social dialogue at the company. According to Labour Protection Law [1] there are also legal requirements towards the employees to ensure their participation in improvement of working environment including obligation to:

  • The results of the evaluation of the workplace risks.
  • The OSH measures determined by the employer and the protective equipment to be used.
  • Accidents at work and cases of occupational diseases.
  • Explanations, opinions and instructions of the State Labour Inspectorate regarding OSH issues as well as warnings, orders and decisions of the State Labour Inspectorate relating to the labour protection system in the company.

According to the latest survey data only 16.2% of workers have provided several suggestions for improvements in their working conditions during last year and 8.4% of workers have done it once [3].

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Labour Protection Law, adopted by the Latvian Parliament (Saeima) on 20 June 2001. Available at: http://www.vvc.gov.lv/export/sites/default/docs/LRTA/Likumi/Labour_Protection_Law.doc
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Labour Law, adopted by the Latvian Parliament (Saeima) on 20 June 2001. Available at: http://www.vvc.gov.lv/export/sites/default/docs/LRTA/Likumi/Labour_Law.doc
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 LDDK – Employers’ Confederation of Latvia, Working conditions and risks in Latvia 2012-2013 (previous data of survey), Riga, Latvia, 2013, (in Latvian)
  4. 4.0 4.1 LDDK – Employers’ Confederation of Latvia, Working conditions and risks in Latvia 2009-2010, Riga, Latvia, 2010, p. 120 (in Latvian). Available at: http://www.lddk.lv/file.php?id=320
  5. Regulation of National Tripartite Collaboration Council, adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers on 30 October 1998 (in Latvian). Available at: http://www.mk.gov.lv/file/files/valsts_kanceleja/NTSP/ntsp_nolikums.doc
  6. 6.0 6.1 Latvian Trade Union Confederation (2013). Home page. Retrieved 18 March 2013, from: www.lbas.lv
  7. Employers’ Confederation of Latvia (2013). Home page. Retrieved 18 March 2013, from: www.lddk.lv
  8. Regulation of Labour Sub Council of National Tripartite Collaboration Council, adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers on 8 March 2000 (in Latvian). Available at: http://www.mk.gov.lv/file/files/valsts_kanceleja/NTSP/2011/dltsa_nolikums.doc
  9. Law on Trade unions, adopted by the Latvian Parliament (Saeima) on 13 December 1990. Available at: http://www.vvc.gov.lv/export/sites/default/docs/LRTA/Likumi/On_Trade_Unions_.doc
  10. Regulations Regarding Training in Labour Protection Matters, adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers on 10 August 2010. Available at: http://www.vvc.gov.lv/export/sites/default/docs/LRTA/MK_Noteikumi/Cab._Reg._No._749_-_Training_in_Labour_Protection_Matters.doc
  11. State Labour Inspectorate (2013). Home page. Retrieved 15 April 2013, from: www.vdi.gov.lv
  12. 12.0 12.1 Procedures for the Performance of Internal Supervision of the Work Environment, adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers on 02 October 2007. Available at: http://www.vvc.gov.lv/export/sites/default/docs/LRTA/MK_Noteikumi/Cab._Reg._No._660_-_Internal_Supervision_of_the_Work_Environment.doc

Links for further reading

LDDK – Employers’ Confederation of Latvia, Working conditions and risks in Latvia 2009-2010, Riga, Latvia, 2010, p. 120 (in Latvian). Available at: http://www.lddk.lv/file.php?id=320

EU-OSHA – European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER), Managing safety and health at work, European Risk Observatory Report, 2010. Available at: https://osha.europa.eu/en/publications/reports/esener1_osh_management

EU-OSHA – European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Worker representation and consultation on health and safety, An analysis of the findings of the European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER), 2012. Available at: https://osha.europa.eu/en/publications/reports/esener_workers-involvement

EU-OSHA – European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (no date), Healthy Workplaces Campaign 2012-13 – Working together for risk prevention. Retrieved on 28 March 2013, from: http://www.healthy-workplaces.eu/en/hw2012

Eurofound – European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Health and safety at work in SMEs: Strategies for employee information and consultation, 2010. Available at: http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/docs/ewco/tn0911028s/tn0911028s.pdf

Eurofound – European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Social dialogue and working conditions, 2011. Available at: http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/pubdocs/2011/12/en/2/EF1112EN.pdf

Eurofound - European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Workplace employee representation in Europe, 2012. Available at: http://www.ilo.org/public/libdoc/igo/2012/469934.pdf