Population: 2,300,000
Capital: Riga
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111

Thresholds for forming trade unions are too high and solidarity strikes are severely restricted. Anti-union behaviour on the shop-floor level has been increasing and relationships between trade union and the government have severely deteriorated.

Trade union rights in law

Right to organise – Restrictions: Everyone who works or studies has the right to form and join trade unions, with the exception of state security forces and border guards. A union must have at least 50 members or, for enterprise-level unions, at least one quarter of the employees, which is too high by the ILO standards. Trade union registration is compulsory, and a fee must be paid to the state when a trade union is registered or dissolved, when any changes are made to trade union internal documentation, or when a certificate of registration is needed.

Right to collective bargaining: The right to bargain collectively is recognised in law, except for special service ranks in the Ministry of Interior and Prison Administration. Workers paid from the state budget can bargain collectively, but the financial commitments laid down in their agreements (such as salary rates) may not exceed the amounts stipulated by the Cabinet of Ministers' regulations. Collective bargaining in the public administration is a formal procedure with no real substance, since all employment conditions are fixed by law.

Right to strike: Strikes are prohibited in some essential services and the state administration, in line with the ILO standards. Solidarity strikes are regarded illegal unless the dispute concerns the General Collective Agreement.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Background: In April, the ITUC-affiliated Federation of Free Trade Unions (LBAS) collected over 200,000 signatures for amending the Latvian Constitution. These amendments, if accepted in a referendum, would provide for the dissolution of the Parliament. In August, the referendum failed due to a low participation and the government struck back by freezing wages for public sector workers, which compounded the wider social unrest. Latvia has also been hit hard by the global recession, with unemployment rates having almost doubled by the end of the year.

Dialogue collapsed: During the year, the government was openly unwilling to cooperate with trade unions and employers alike. Preparations for the state budget for 2009 and measures to combat financial crisis were adopted behind closed doors. Even when trade unions were allowed to the meetings, they were not properly informed and basically kept out of the decision-making process.

The authorities make trade unions pay: Following the constitutional amendments campaign, LBAS was informed by Riga city council that they would no longer enjoy the reduced rate on their property tax. Whilst previously LBAS had to pay LVL 2,800 a year in tax on their two office buildings, the rate for 2008 was LVL 35,000 (nearly EUR 50,000).

Anti-union employers: Employers' hostility towards trade unions is a growing trend. Some employers are openly encouraging workers to leave trade unions, arguing that collective agreements apply to everyone so trade union membership is not necessary. LBAS reported redundancies and outsourcing practices aimed at getting rid of unionised workers. Violations of existing collective agreements is on the increase, partly due to the difficult economic conditions.

Latvenergo withdraws the check-off facility: The LBAS-affiliated Energija trade union (energy sector) has a collective agreement with Latvenergo and related companies Sadales tikls and Augstsprieguma tikls that runs until 2010. This agreement allows the trade union to receive trade union fees directly from its members' salaries, via the check-off system. On 11 December, some of the trade union members were informed that the company would no longer deduct and transfer their union fees. At the end of December, after several meetings and interventions, the companies agreed to restore the check-off facility in January, but Energija still lost the membership fees for the whole month of December.

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