There is one trade union confederation in Latvia, the LBAS, and almost all significant unions belong to it. Union density is relatively low, at about 13%, and is much higher in the public than in the private sector.
There are just over 100,000 employed trade union members in Latvia (2013 figures). This is around 13% of all employees (the total number of employees has fallen by almost a quarter since the start of the crisis). Older figures from the ICTWSS database of union membership are slightly higher, putting union density in Latvia at 14.8% in 2008.1 The only trade union confederation in Latvia, the LBAS, states it represents 15% of all Latvian workers.2
The LBAS has 100,000 members.3 It was founded in 1990 and replaced the former union structure in Latvia, which existed when the country was part of the Soviet Union.
There are a total of 20 individual unions affiliated to the LBAS, and they are normally based on a specific industry or occupation. The largest unions are: LIZDA, for the education and science sector, with 31,930 members; the railway and transport workers union, LDzSA, with more than 16,000 members; LVSADA, for the health and social work sector, with 12,000 members; and LAKRS for public services and transport employees, with 7,695 members. Internally unions are made up of local organisations at individual workplaces: LIZDA, for example, has 1,306 local trade union organisations and LAKRS has 189.4
Some small unions are not affiliated to the LBAS, as a union can be founded by just 50 people. In August 2014 a total of 216 trade unions were registered in Latvia, although only 197 were listed as being active.5
The LBAS is formally politically neutral in Latvia’s complex and changing party political structure, although it plays an important role with the employers’ confederation in developing the country’s economic and social policies
Unions have lost a large number of members since independence in 1991. As recently as 1995 LBAS had more than 275,000 members, compared with 100,000 today. Membership is still higher in the public than in the private sector, although there are union members in former state-owned companies that have now been privatised and in some companies owned by multinationals.
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.