European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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13 June 2017

Estonia: cooperation with Nordic countries’ unions helps to boost union membership

In 2012, the Nordic and Baltic unions have launched a cooperation project titled the Baltic Organising Academy (BOA). It aims at enhancing unionization in the three Baltic countries. Five years on, the initial assessment of this initiative is particularly encouraging in Estonia, as reported in a book recently published by the ETUI.

In November 2014, less than three years after the launch of the initiative, BOA allows the unionization of over 1,200 new union members, the designation of 50 shop stewards and led to the establishment of 15 new union organisations.

In addition to membership gains, BOA induced changes in the ideological and strategic orientation of the Estonian unions. The organising model was embraced by the Estonian Trade Union Confederation (EAKL), which incorporated its elements into its workers reps’ training module.

BOA also served as an inspiration for other Estonian unions remaining out of the original project structures. The Estonian Seamen's Independent Union (EMSA), for instance, staged several successful campaigns at the Tallink hotel chain, reaching the unionisation rate of 60-90% and signing an in-house collective agreement.

Sectoral level unions have launched joint social campaigns. For example, EMSA and the public services’ union ETKA launched in 2014 the ‘Decent work, decent salary’ 2014 campaign that helped raise awareness on the outrageous employment conditions in the hospitality sector. More recently, BOA has also extended its activities to Lithuania and Latvia.

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