Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July 2014, 15:15 GMT

2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Latvia

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Latvia, 8 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ea661fec.html [accessed 30 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 2,200,000
Capital: Riga
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111

Economic conditions have made it difficult for trade unions and members to fully utilise their rights. The rights to collective bargaining and to strike are limited. Thresholds for forming unions are set high.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN LAW

Certain limitations apply despite basic trade union rights being guaranteed in the Constitution. Every union must have at least 50 members, or not less than one quarter of the workers employed in the unit, profession or sector. Collective bargaining is recognised except for special service ranks in the Ministry of the Interior and Prison Administration, however there is little scope to bargain on employment conditions in the public administration.

The right to strike is restricted as the decision to initiate strike action must be taken by a three-quarters' majority at a quorum where ¾ of the employees or members are present. Furthermore, solidarity strikes are illegal unless the dispute concerns a sectoral level collective agreement, and political strikes are prohibited. Some categories of workers are unduly excluded from the right to strike, and the list of "essential services", in which a minimum service must be established, is somewhat too elaborate.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN PRACTICE AND VIOLATIONS IN 2010

Background: Latvia was one of the countries worst hit by the global financial crisis with unemployment rising to more than 22% and GDP dropping 18% in 2009. As a result the government has continued to implement wide-ranging austerity measures backed by the International Monetary Fund, involving large cuts in wages and in public expenditure. The centre-right coalition government led by the Unity party leader Vladimir Dombrovkis was nonetheless re-elected in parliamentary elections in October 2010.

Collective bargaining hampered: The law "On the Remuneration of State and Local Government Institutions Officials and Employees" has created problems for collective bargaining agents in the public sector, since it outlaws all monetary benefits under collective agreements unless they are directly provided by law. Some public employers also refuse to bargain collectively.

Harsh economic climate results in non-reporting of antiunion activities: Unofficially, there have been many reported cases on employers spreading anti-union propaganda and cases of dismissal and demotion or relocation of activists who plan to establish a trade union in an enterprise or of existing trade union representatives in order to break trade union activity. However, these cases have no official evidence and the dismissal or relocation of workers is always supported by contrasting evidence demonstrating the guilt of the employees. In the current economic climate with high unemployment, employees often opt to be silent in order not to lose their jobs. These cases are mostly reported in the trade union branches in the wood manufacturing, civil aviation and industry sectors.

Educationalist unfairly relieved of her duties: The Rezekne division of the Education and Science Workers Trade Union (ESTWU) became embroiled in a dispute when the local education authority tried to dismiss the headteacher of Rezekne secondary school Nr.4. In May the ESTWU refused to agree to his dismissal and subsequently the local authority attempted to put pressure on the union. This took the form of refusing to transfer union subscriptions from the salaries of its employers. In addition, Janina Staudza, chair of the ESTWU in Rezekne, was unilaterally relieved of her duties as chief education methodologist at the Rezekne Education Board and lost free use of premises to carry out her union work.

No collective bargaining for the police: In 2010, the Unite Trade Union of Policemen sought a collective bargaining agreement, but this was rejected. It was argued that the police are in the civil service rather than in a contract of employment and thus any provisions for collective agreement are not applicable.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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