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A conference on the possibilities and challenges of collective agreements in Lithuania took place in Vilnius


On September 30th, 2022, in Vilnius, at the “Neringa” conference center, an international conference called “Opportunities Opened by Social Dialogue” took place. The event was moderated by Dr. Marius Kalanta. The chairperson of the Lithuanian Industry Trade Union Federation (LPPSF), Dalia Jakutavičė, delivered a welcome speech to the participants of the event. She summarized the results of the LPPSF project “Improving Social Dialogue in Industry Sector in Lithuania,” which lasted more than two years and was carried out in partnership with the Norwegian Trade Union “Fellesforbundet,” and financed by the “Norway Grants.” The conference was the final event of the project, during which social partners aimed to find common ground in determining the direction of Lithuania’s social dialogue.

Representatives from the Norwegian trade union “Fellesforbundet,” Jørgen Kaurin and Catherine Ulvøy, presented Norway’s social dialogue and welfare model to conference participants. According to J. Kaurin, the main element that distinguishes Norway’s model from others is the strong representation of both sides – employers and employees – in collective bargaining through numerous organizations. Another important feature is wage fairness: the difference between the salary of managers and specialists is small or almost imperceptible, which reduces tension between employees and managers and helps ensure a sense of social justice.

“Our collective bargaining sometimes resembles salsa dancing when everything goes smoothly and both sides agree, and sometimes a boxing ring when we have to fight for our position. However, even after heated debates, we usually dance because we have clearly defined negotiation rules that lead to agreements that benefit both sides,” noted J. Kaurin.

Collective agreements allow for deviations from statutory norms but with one condition

Senior Advisor Jelena Polijančuk of the Social Security and Labor Ministry’s (SOCMIN) labor law group spoke about the benefits of social partnership and collective agreements. She emphasized that it is important for Lithuania to strengthen higher-level collective bargaining, especially in the private sector (currently, according to SOCMIN statistics, only 34% of all collective agreements in the country are in the private sector).

Project experts Prof. Dr. Vida Petrylaite and Dr. Marius Kalanta introduced conference participants to the analysis of collective agreements in the industry sector.

V. Petrylaite highlighted the legal aspects of collective agreements, noting that many provisions of such agreements still repeat the articles of the Labor Code. However, the Code itself allows for deviations from the norms in certain cases, and both parties can agree on the company’s or sector’s specificities to achieve a balance of employer and employee interests. Meanwhile, M. Kalanta talked about the economic leverage of agreements, regretting that a significant portion of Lithuanian employers fail to see the advantages of collective agreements and their potential as an economic driving force, especially during hard times. According to the expert, if employers understood that they also benefit from reaching agreements with employees, we would have a different situation both in labor relations and economically.

At the end of the event, a discussion took place with the participation of Jelena Polijančuk, MP Tomas Tomilinas, experts Vida Petrylaite and Marius Kalanta, President of the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists Ričardas Sartatavičius, chief expert Eigilė Čygaitė-Elzbergienė, legal adviser of the Lithuanian Heat Suppliers Association Egidijus Šimoliūnas, Chairwoman of the Lithuanian Trade Union Confederation Inga Ruginienė, and Chairwoman of LPPSF Dalia Jakutavičė.

The discussion aimed to find answers on how to increase employers’ motivation to negotiate with employees, find a balance between coercive mechanisms and a legal environment that encourages negotiation. The possibility of amending the Labor Code to create conditions for both parties to sit at the negotiating table and reach an agreement was also discussed.

The discussion also touched on the particularly worrying situation in the heat sector

Although work in heat companies is complex, dangerous, requiring specialized knowledge, high qualifications, and special preparation, employees’ salaries do not reflect this. Due to the specifics of the price-setting methodology for heat, which is determined by the price regulator (VERT), the component of workers’ wages is insufficient and inadequate compared to the Lithuanian market. Statistical data show that some specialists in certain companies earn just a little more than the minimum monthly wage in Lithuania. Unfortunately, there is a mistaken belief in society that heat engineers receive high salaries.

As a result, young specialists do not stay long in heat supply companies and choose similar jobs in the private sector or in other sectors, or they emigrate to other countries. This leads to a high turnover of employees in the heat sector and a tendency for its employees to age, while educational institutions do not attract new students to study heat engineering. This poses a real risk to the survival of this sector.

At the event, an animated film was also shown, created during the project, about the fates of divers from different companies. What happens when employees and employers start looking for solutions together, and conversely, how does the unwillingness to negotiate affect the company’s activities?

The film can be viewed by following this direct link:

Recording of the conference broadcast:

Event photo gallery: