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Workplace Representation

Employee representation at the workplace is either through unions or through elected workplace representatives. However, with low levels of union membership, particularly in the private sector, and a reluctance among employees to elect workplace representatives, most workplaces have no employee representation at all.

The main form of workplace representation in Latvia is through the unions at the workplace. The labour legislation, which came into effect on 1 June 2002, introduced the possibility of electing “authorised workplace representatives”, but this has not proved popular. The law relating to employee representation was further amended in November 2005 to implement the EU directive on information and consultation, but this has had no significant practical impact on the structure of workplace representation or the information and consultation culture.

There are also elected representatives in the area of health and safety.

Where workers are represented at the workplace, unions continue to be the main channel. However very many employees have no workplace representation at all.

Numbers and structure

The numbers and structure of union representation at the workplace depend on the rules of the union.

There are no detailed rules on the numbers of authorised workplace representatives. The legislation simply states that they can be elected in any company or organisation with five or more employees.

Tasks and rights

Trade union representatives and authorised workplace representatives are both legally considered to be “employee representatives”, and both have essentially the same tasks and duties. Both are involved in information and consultation and both may be involved in collective bargaining, although, non-union representatives may only negotiate a collective agreement if there is no union.

 

The employer should inform and consult with employee representatives on issues that may materially affect pay, working conditions and employment and they should be involved in the organisation of working time, internal works regulations and health and safety at the workplace. Employee representatives should also be given information about the economic and social situation of the company or organisation. There are specific rules regarding collective redundancies and business transfers. The legislation implementing the EU directive on information and consultation strengthened the legal position of employee representatives by setting out more clearly the employer’s information and consultation obligations.

 

However, it is also the case that a culture of information and consultation has is not well developed in Latvia, particularly in the area of collective redundancies and business transfers. The result is that information and consultation of employee representatives is frequently non-existent, although recently some more positive trends have been evident.

 

Employee representatives have a right to hold meetings of employees, provided this does not disturb the normal operations of the company, and they have a right to monitor the employer’s compliance with legal requirements. This includes access to the workplace and to information although, again, only if this does not disturb normal operations.

Election and term of office

The election and term of office of union representatives depend on the union’s rules.

Authorised workplace representatives are elected “for a specified term” by a majority of an employee meeting, although the law does not say how long, or fix a maximum or minimum term. At least half of all employees of the company or organisation must participate for the meeting to be valid.

Protection against dismissal

Latvian labour law provides a high degree of protection for those in a union. Trade union members – both representatives and simple members – cannot be dismissed by the employer without the prior written consent of the relevant trade union. The only exceptions are during an employee’s probation period, or where the individual is being dismissed because of intoxication, because of the reinstatement of the individual previously doing the work, or because the employer is going into liquidation. If the union does not give its consent the employer can take the issue to the court for a decision, although in practice it may be several years before the court makes a judgement. The result is that most cases are settled through agreement, involving high levels of compensation for the dismissed employee.

The law also states that the performance of the duties of an employee representative – either as a trade union representative or as an authorised workplace representative – should not be the basis for dismissal or some other form of disadvantage.

Time off and other resources

Collective agreements may provide for time off and specific resources for employee representatives. There are no statutory provisions.

Representation at group level

Union structures may produce representation at group level but the legislation does not provide for this other than in joint negotiations with the employer.

L. Fulton (2015) Worker representation in Europe. Labour Research Department and ETUI. Produced with the assistance of the SEEurope Network, online publication available at http://www.worker-participation.eu/National-Industrial-Relations.