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Trade Unions

 

Union membership in Lithuania is low – about 7% of all employees. The unions are divided into three main confederations, LPSK, LPSF “Sandrauga” and LPS “Solidarumas", divided – historically at least – on ideological grounds. However, the unions are able to work together.

There are almost 90,000 trade unionists in Lithuania, according to figures from the Lithuanian statistics office. These indicate that total union membership was 86,600 at the end of 2018, down from around 92,000 in the previous three years.[1] With official figures showing 1,214,350 employees in Lithuania in 2018, this puts union density (assuming all trade union members are employees) at 7.1% in 2018. This is the same calculation used in the ICTWSS database.[2] 

 

Unions in Lithuania are divided into three main confederations, which are all represented in the national tripartite social dialogue committee (see section on collective bargaining). The LPSK is the largest, with around 50,000 members.[3] It is followed by Solidarumas with some 14,000 members and Sandrauga with around 10,000. (all figures for 2018).[4] There are also two smaller confederations, the RJPS and the LDF, and some unions not affiliated to the confederations. For example, the NPPSS, which brings together specialist unions representing parts of the public sector such as the police, firefighters and the prison service had 1,400 members in 2019.[5]

 

Each of the two largest 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. Solidarumas developed from the movement for Lithuanian independence, Sajudis, although it took its current name only in 2002.

 

The confederations are organised along industrial lines, although they also have important regional structures. The LPSK has 25 industry federations, Solidarumas has 15, and Sandrauga states it operates in 18 areas. In general, the largest federations are in the public sector, particularly health and education. The LPSK’s largest affiliate with 10,000 members is the education union LŠMPS, which was created through a merger of two education unions in May 2019.[6]

 

The individual industry federations are made up of a minimum of five local employer-level unions, in companies, government institutions and other organisations, which come together in the federations. It is possible to set up a trade union with just 20 founding members or, in companies/organisations with fewer than 200 employees, just 10% of the workforce, provided it is at least three.

 

For example, LŽŪDPSF, the union for agricultural workers in LPSK and one of the strongest in the private sector, states on its website that it has 8,035 members in 148 local unions, and the LPSK service workers’ union has 4,250 members in 31 local unions as well as organising athletes and hairdressers.[7]  

 

Politically LPSK is closer to the social democratic party, while Solidarumas, which was formerly closer to the conservatives, now takes a more neutral position.

 

Despite these potential political differences, the confederations have cooperated in the past, notably in their opposition in 2015 and 2016 to major changes to the Labour Code being proposed by the government.

 

Union membership has declined substantially since Lithuanian independence in 1990. Since 2006, the earliest figures from the Lithuanian statistics office, overall membership has fallen by 22.5%. There is a concern to rebuild trade union strength, with the LPSK service workers’ union an example of a union using a bottom-up strategy to build membership. [8]

 

A majority of trade unionists in Lithuania are probably women. The response of LPKS, the largest confederation, to the annual ETUC gender equality survey in 2019 indicated that 58% of its membership were female.[9]

[1] The number of members in membership organizations at the end of year, Statistics Lithuania

[2] Jelle Visser, ICTWSS Data base. Version 6.1. Amsterdam: Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies AIAS. October 2019

[3] ETUC Annual Gender Equality Survey 2019 – 12th edition, by Lionel Fulton and Cinzia Sechi, ETUC, April 2019  https://www.etuc.org/sites/default/files/circular/file/2019-05/ETUC_Annual_Equality_Survey%202019_FINAL_EN.pdf (Accessed 03.04.2020)

[4] Working life in Lithuania by Inga Blaziene and Rasa Mieziene, Eurofound, 2019 https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/country/lithuania#actors-and-institutions (Accessed 03.04.2020)

[5] See NPPSS website https://www.pareigunai.lt/apie-mus (Accessed 03.04.2020)

[6] Lithuania: Latest developments in working life Q2 2019 by Inga Blaziene, Eurofound, August 2019  https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/publications/article/2019/lithuania-latest-developments-in-working-life-q2-2019 (Accessed 03.04.2020)

[7] http://www.lzud.lt/index.php?s_id=1&lang=lt  and http://www.lpsdps.com/?ac=about (Accessed 03.04.2020)

[8] Lithuanian trade unions: from survival skills to innovative solutions by Inga Blažiene and Boguslavas Gruževskis, in Innovative union practices in Central-Eastern Europe, edited by Magdalena Bernaciak and Marta Kahancová, ETUI, 2017

[9] ETUC Annual Gender Equality Survey 2019 – 12th edition, by Lionel Fulton and Cinzia Sechi, ETUC, April 2019  https://www.etuc.org/sites/default/files/circular/file/2019-05/ETUC_Annual_Equality_Survey%202019_FINAL_EN.pdf

L. Fulton (2021) National Industrial Relations, an update (2019-2021). Labour Research Department and ETUI (online publication). Online publication available at http://www.worker-participation.eu/National-Industrial-Relations.