European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Lithuania

5 July 2017

Lithuania: labour law reform finally adopted

On 6 June the Seimas (the Lithuanian parliament) passed the amendments to the Labour Code, which comes into force on 1 July 2017.

The Bill was signed by the country’s presidency on 14 June 2017. The preparation of this reform was a long and winding road; a more liberal Labour Code was passed in June 2016, but it was vetoed by the presidency shortly afterwards. After the government and the trade unions agreed to improve the code, the parliament decided to override the earlier president's veto.

The old draft was heavily criticised by the trade unions, as well as by many young workers, who have been protesting during the whole year 2016. According to the critics, the legislation would not improve the situation of workers and young people and would only bring more flexibility for the employer and less security and weaker protection for workers. The most critical stand came in 2016 from an article that was published in `open access' on the website of the journal Critical Discourse Studies.

After the general elections, the new coalition of the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union and the Social Democrats postponed the parliamentary procedure and took a time out of half a year to allow time for amendments. These amendments were prepared in the Tripartite Council, with representatives from the government and the social partners. The representatives concluded discussions on the most contested issues without reaching a consensus on the staging of strikes and lockouts, fixed-term contracts, working time issues and collective bargaining. However, they did come to agreement on part-time work, agency work and working time accounting. The amendments also provide that a works council will not be formed when a trade union including over one third of the total number of employees functions in a firm; the trade union will acquire all the rights of a works council. Other changes include the right for trade unions or works councils to receive information on pay and working conditions, to consultation rights related to working time and to an appeal in case information and consultation procedures are not respected. The Bill has been welcomed by supporters that say that more flexibility is necessary to create jobs and attract investors. Critics still warn, however, that the new Code will make it easier for employers to dismiss employees. For the Lithuanian Free Market Institute, a neo-liberal thinktank, the changes are too modest to bring higher flexibility. However, the Institute expects to see improvements such as an increase in the maximum allowed working days per week, a reduced mandatory notice period for dismissed workers and a reduction in mandatory severance pay for redundancies.

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