2016. április 4-5-én került sor a LIGA Szakszervezetek a „Kísérlet egyes Közép-kelet európai országokban a társadalmi párbeszéd és a nemzeti munkaügyi kapcsolatok revitalizációjára" című pályázat keretein belül a harmadik nemzetközi munkacsoport találkozóra Rigában, Lettországban. A szeminárium célcsoportja fiatalok és szervezők voltak. A rendezvényre az összes projektpartner küldött résztvevőket, így a lett LBAS, a litván Solidarumas, a bolgár Podkrepa, a francia CFDT, a lengyel OPZZ és a magyar LIGA Szakszervezetek egyaránt. A LIGA részéről többek közt a MEDOSZ, a HOSZ, a VISZ és a Baranya megyei LIGA Szakszervezetek képviselői vettek részt a közös munkában.
2016. március elején került sor a LIGA Szakszervezetek „Kísérlet egyes közép-kelet európai országokban a társadalmi párbeszéd és a nemzeti munkaügyi kapcsolatok revitalizációjára" című projekt keretén belül a második nemzetközi munkacsoport találkozóra Szófiában, Bulgáriában. A szemináriumon 30-an vettek részt több országból, Magyarországról többek között a Honvédszakszervezet, a Magyar Orvosok Szövetsége, és a Független Rendőr Szakszervezet képviselői voltak jelen, valamint a Szegedi Tudományegyetem szakértője.
2016. február elsején és másodikán került sor a LIGA Szakszervezetek „Kísérlet egyes közép-kelet európai országokban a társadalmi párbeszéd és a nemzeti munkaügyi kapcsolatok revitalizációjára" című projektjén keretén belül az első nemzetközi munkacsoport találkozóra Vilniusban, Litvániában.
Lettország és Magyarország fővárosa között közel 1500 km a távolság, autóval egy egynapos „kirándulás", repülővel bő két óra alatt megközelíthető. Lettország Észak-kelet Európában helyezkedik el, a három balti ország – Észtország, Lettország és Litvánia – egyike, ugyan már a múlt része, mégis kisebb-nagyobb mértékben még érezhető a volt Szovjetunió részeként, illetve annak érdekterületeként töltött időszak hatása. Az ország még a tízmilliós Magyarországnál is kevesebb lakót számlál, alig közelíti meg a kétmillió főt. Mivel ez nem egy utazási blogbejegyzés, ezért ezen a ponton át is térünk a címben jelzett témára, Lettország munkaügyi kapcsolataira. Az alábbi összefoglaló a teljesség igénye nélkül készült, magyar szemüvegen keresztül nézve.
A LIGA Szakszervezetek Európai Unió társfinanszírozásával megvalósuló „Kísérlet egyes közép-kelet európai országokban a társadalmi párbeszéd és a nemzeti munkaügyi kapcsolatok revitalizációjára" elnevezésű projektjének keretében újabb eseményre került sor 2015. április 3-án Budapesten, az NH Budapest City hotelben.
A „Kísérlet egyes közép-kelet európai országokban a társadalmi párbeszéd és a nemzeti munkaügyi kapcsolatok revitalizációjára" projekt keretében 2015.január 30–án Budapesten a Lion's Garden Hotelben került sor a projektindító megbeszélésre. A találkozón a LIGA Szakszervezetek képviselői mellett részt vettek a projektben résztvevő szakszervezetek képviselői, Tekaya Maher a francia CFDT-től, Jurgita Žiūkienė a litván LPSS-től, Veselina Starcheva a bolgár Podkrepától és Liene Liekna a lett LBAS-tól.
A LIGA Szakszervezetek 2014 decemberében indíthatta el legújabb nemzetközi kutatási és képzési projektjét, miután sikeresen pályázott az Európai Bizottság Foglalkoztatási, Szociális ügyek és Társadalmi Befogadásért felelős Főosztálya által kiírt a „Szakértelem fejlesztése a munkaügyi kapcsolatok területén" elnevezésű felhívására. A VS/2014/0588 referenciaszámot viselő, " Kísérlet egyes közép-kelet európai országokban a társadalmi párbeszéd és a nemzeti munkaügyi kapcsolatok revitalizációjára - amit tanultunk és a legjobb gyakorlatok a válságból való kilábalás kapcsán" név alatt futó projekt megvalósítására 10 százaléknyi önerő vállalása mellett 153 998 EUR pénzügyi támogatás és 2 év áll rendelkezésre.
International workgroup meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania
This summary is to thematically follow the topics and discussions of the workgroup meeting but will place primary focus on feedbacks, questions and experiences shared by the experts rather than the extensive summary of the actual presentations.
The first presenter of the meeting was Ms.
Kristina Krupavičienė, the President of LPS “Solidarumas” from Lithuania. She provided the opening thoughts to the workgroup meeting as well as an overview of the trade union and industrial systems situation in Lithuania, which held much resemblance to those of Hungary, Bulgaria, Latvia and Poland, further assuring the need for professional cooperation between these countries.
The Project itself was introduced by the Project Manager, Ms.
Melinda Kelemen from LIGA Trade Unions, Hungary, placing the emphasis on the main goals set to achieve by the workgroup meeting at hand as well as others to be held in the future and the project itself in general.
Marco Cilento, Policy adviser from the ETUC served with some good examples to be followed by trade unions in general, but also placed attention to the fact that the “decline” of trade unions seems to be a common phenomenon throughout the European Union. Sectoral levels are being used less and less even though the most attention would be advised to be placed exactly to that level. With it, a dual system could be set up by utilizing works councils on local level and trade unions on sectoral level. The two institutions working together would result in well working system. Good examples, following the aforementioned logic include Sweden, Germany and even Italy – according to Mr. Cilento. The expert also drew attention to the economic decline that could – and in some countries still can – be felt, that resulted in generally low wages for employees, even professionals.
Possible solutions were supplied by the experts from Hungary, advising the setting up or strengthening of the centralized, national level of collective bargaining, as this could very well result in the conclusion of national level collective agreements, which would at least partially solve the problem posed by the lack of sectoral level agreements – this could be used as a short term solution while the issues raised on sectoral level can be addressed properly.
The issue of relatively low wages – even for professionals – was also addressed with a proposal by the Hungarian experts. According to them, there are two types of guaranteed minimum wages in Hungary, one that follows the basic idea of a minimum wage (meaning that the given amount
must be guaranteed to everyone employed in a full time job regardless of the sector they work in or the actual job they are doing, etc.) and a second one to be guaranteed to employees who are required to have completed tertiary education in order to be able to do their jobs.
Arvydas Guogis was the next presenter, who talked about the situation in Lithuania in detail. He mentioned a “Dark Period” in the history of industrial relations in Lithuania, between 1926 and 1940, when trade union activities were being largely restricted, but according to other experts, this period was not so dark at all, as despite the restrictions, the Labour Chamber operated exceptionally well. So well that the reestablishment of such practice should at least be considered in the present as well.
According to Mr. Guogis, the biggest problem that Lithuania has to face currently is based on its “multi-culture”, as a clash of cultures can be experienced at the moment, which is made even worse by emigration, as the largest wave has happened right before the recent economic crisis.
This also appears on the field of politics. The ideal behind the whole industrial relations model is neo-liberalism but it is gradually being replaced by a nationalistic approach, or at least this is how it seems, but experts apparently seemed to disagree on this question.
Problems in Lithuania include the fact that there is not too much possibility to organize and participate in strikes, as the expert said, strikes are in some cases even prohibited by court. This might be a result of trade unions and other industrial relations organizations do not feel any support from neither the authorities, nor the public.
The Lithuanian country study was followed by the Latvian, presented by Ms.
Raita Karnite, Head of the Humanities and Social Sciences Department of the Latvian Academy of Sciences. She reflected on the question of strikes – raised by experts in the audience as a follow-up to the situation discussed regarding Lithuania. Ms. Karnite told that there are not many strikes in Latvia, but the reason for this is different than that of Lithuania. Legally there would be possibility to organize strikes – even though there are some shortcomings – but generally peoples’ mentality is different, especially in the business sector. Strikes are naturally opposed by employers but fortunately practice shows that partners are able to find consensus in most cases.
There are attempts to include the public and raise their attention to important issues such as safety at work, addressing young audiences.
The wages are gradually being raised because people are willing to leave the country – even in great numbers – if they earn less than they could earn abroad doing the same jobs, but this results in a troubling situation, namely that the wages are growing in a faster pace than the GDP is.
The Bulgarian situation was presented next by Mr.
Adrian Iliev, Senior Industrial Relations Fellow, who continued to address the question of strikes. According to him, the biggest strikes took place after the regime change in Bulgaria. Legislation has always been fairly good regarding the question of strikes, they are easy to organize, but people do not seem to believe in their success in general. This seems to be a result of the fact that it is also relatively easy to organise lock-outs and there are numerous other ways to make a strike ineffective. The two trade union confederations have around 150,000 and 250,000 members respectively.
According to Mr. Iliev, Bulgaria has to face hardships as nearly two million of the best educated citizens left the country soon after its accession to the EU.
After the presentation of the Hungarian situation by Mr.
Balázs Rossu, Assistant Professor at the University of Szeged, the questions were mostly focused around the political situation of the country, as it seems that social dialogue and the industrial relations system are more entangled in politics in Hungary than in most cases. The situation seems to work in theory but practice differs on numerous levels and in great depth.
The last presentation of the first day was about the situation in Poland, by Mr.
Małgorzata Bogdanowicz, University Lecturer at Katolicki Uniwesytet Lubelski. According to him, the situation regarding labour law, strikes and social dialogue in general are considered to be acceptable. The previous government did not cooperate with trade unions, but the new one is acting friendly towards them.
The second day started with the presentation of an example of a non CEEC country, France, by Ms.
Sabrina Zouane, Confederal Secretary at the Legal Department of CFDT. She started by explaining that currently there is a legitimacy crisis in France. The trade union membership rate is very low (at around 8%), one of the lowest in the OECD countries, but there still is an extremely high collective (bargaining) agreement coverage (at around 95%). The most probable reason for the low membership rate is that there are no special rights or discounts offered to trade union members only. Trade unions are able to operate with just a few members as their funding comes from taxes paid by the employers instead of coming from membership fees.
The roots of the legitimacy crisis can be found in the representativeness criteria being based on old regulations, whereas representativeness plays an important part in the industrial relations system. Based on representativeness, trade unions gain more legitimacy, collective agreements concluded by representative trade unions also gain more legitimacy, they also gain representativeness within the company and become more transparent financially.
The international workgroup meeting continued with round table discussions, where the experts of different countries could share their views, thoughts and experiences in a less thematic manner, placing the focus of attention to real problems and interests of the employees’ representatives.
Lithuania the experts discussed that a common approach should be applied when facing society, even if there is disagreement. Legal aid is offered to trade union members and a form of insurance. There is also possibility to use holiday homes but not free of charges. The financial aid for trade unions is primarily drawn from membership fees, other grants are only available as part of special events (e.g. EU tenders). There are no representativeness criteria whatsoever and practice shows that too much transparency is not welcome.
Latvia the only source of income for trade unions are from membership fees.
There has been a forum organized as a part of a project (that has already ended) to get the public to know trade unions and their activities better. Papers and studies were published during the course of the project and there was also a possibility to ask questions from the actual trade union representatives and even to complain.
The main problem is that it is hard to prove that the original idea belongs to trade unions after the ministry accepts and disseminates the changes or solutions to the problems and issues raised. The fact that most employees are not aware of labour law regulations also seems to be a huge problem as this result in collective agreements basically copying the text of the law.
Bulgaria there seems to be special emphasis placed on the society being constantly updated on what trade unions actually do, so there is a form of structure to follow in order to do so. Press conferences are held and social media is also widely used in order to reach the people, including the youth.
Trade unions in Bulgaria play a role in legal consultancy as well as in education and training of employees regarding important topics like occupational health and safety.
There is an intense capacity building program currently under way, which aims to create a database of collective agreements.
There are no grants received by trade unions apart from membership fees. The only extra “income” is form employees who are not members of the trade unions. They are given the opportunity to pay a small amount of fee in order to be able to receive the same amount of extra benefits as trade union members do.
Hungary it seems that the roles of trade union have decreased in general. There is no transparency at all on national level, which is based on the “trend” that the members of national level social dialogue are not the trade unions themselves any more, but their leaders (in person), which results in the public being entirely locked out of the discussions. Practice shows that trade unions are gradually losing ground regarding the topics they can negotiate with the state.
Poland it is legally guaranteed to have 30 minutes every week for an information show to be aired on public television that features interviews and brainstorming with employers in various topics. Social media, posters and various promotional campaigns are also widely used.
Trade unions offer a wide variety of services but not all of them are attractive for employees. One of the attractive services is legal help, as lawyers’ fees are very expensive in Poland and trade union members can get legal assistance for free.
The main problem is the lack of money. Trade union membership fees are low (0.5-1 € per month) so trade unions require assistance from the government which is received through dialogue committees and can only be spent on predetermined targets (e.g. experts’ or lawyers’ fees) and is monitored and checked by the Ministry of Labour.
Generally all trade unions are invited to negotiate with the employers. Should they disagree, representative trade unions take the main role. In order to gain representativeness a trade union should have 10% of the employees as their members. If the trade union is a member of one of the three confederations, this ratio is lowered to 7%.
France’s case experts told that when people need to be mobilized, most of the times (should the timing and more importantly the cause be right), if the confederations call for them in unity, people really do participate. Trade unions are rather visible for the public.
There are some special funds created by the employers, trade union members can apply to receive grants from. These usually follow the same logic: if a company has 9 or more employees, the employer can transfer 1% of the total wages payable to them to a fund to help the employees on various fields. Fields currently available are housing and vocational training.
There is also a special call centre service still in an experimental state, available for trade union members (in 3-4 regions at the moment).
Interestingly there are new members joining trade unions constantly but the membership rate does not increase as old members are also being lost constantly.
There is constant conflict of interest between trade unions operating at the same company. This is somewhat countered by the legal regulation that requires them to cooperate as all representative trade unions must be invited to company level negotiations and in order to reach an agreement, 30% should accept it and it is an extremely rare occasion to have that many members in a single trade union.