Union membership in Lithuania is low – about 9% of all employees. The unions are divided into three main confederations, LPSK, LDF and Solidarumas, divided – historically at least – on ideological grounds. However, the unions are now working together more closely.
There are around 100,000 trade unionists in Lithuania, according to figures from the Lithuanian statistics office. These indicate that total union membership was 95,300 at the end of 2013, while the figures for the previous two years were slightly higher at 102,300 in 212 and 108,900 in 2011.1 With 1.14 million employees in Lithuania in 2013, this puts union density (assuming trade union members are employees) at 8.4% in 2013. This is similar to the estimate of the ICTWSS database of union membership which calculated union density at 9.5% in 2009.2
Membership numbers from the three confederations in Lithuania are somewhat below the figures from the Lithuanian statistics office. In 2012 LPSK was the largest, with 56,700 members in employment,3 followed by the LDF, which states on its website that it has “about 13,000”.4 Solidarumas is smaller with some 10,000 members.5 There are also a small number of members in independent unions which do not belong to the three confederations – a trade union must represent either at least 20% of the employees (and not fewer than three) in a particular company or have a minimum of 30 members.
Each of the confederations has a different history and development. The LPSK emerged from a merger of two existing trade union confederations in 2002 which both developed from the trade union organisations which existed at the time when Lithuania was part of the Soviet Union.
The LDF traces its origins back to 1919, when a Christian trade union confederation was first established in Lithuania, and it sees itself as being inspired by the Christian teaching on social issues.
Solidarumas developed from the movement for Lithuanian independence, Sajudis, although it took its current name only in 2002.
All three union confederations are organised along industrial lines, although they also have important regional structures. The LPSK has 26 industry federations, the LDF has 11 and Solidarumas has 12.
Politically LPSK is closer to the social democratic party while the LDF’s views are more aligned with the Christian democrats. Solidarumas, which was formerly closer to the conservatives, now takes a more neutral position.
Despite these potential political differences there is a common wish to work towards Lithuania’s economic development and the confederations have cooperated – notably in the protests against the government’s austerity policies, which led to a national agreement signed by all three confederations, together with the government and the employers in October 2009.
At the end of 2006 the LPSK proposed a merger of the three main confederations. This has not occurred, although the leaders of the three confederations met and agreed to set up a co-ordination centre to work towards a merger and to undertake joint activities in April 2007.
The confederations have all lost a substantial number of members since Lithuanian independence in 1990 and the membership of Solidarumas appears to have fallen sharply in recent years. (In 2005 it stated it had more than 50,000 members.) There is a concern to rebuild trade union strength, which is currently greatest in the public sector.
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.