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Workplace Representation

The Labour Code, which came into effect in 2017, has also changed employee representation at workplace level. Employers with 20 or more workers are now required to initiate the setting up of a works council, and large numbers have been established. However, where an employer-level union has more than a third of the company’s employees in membership, it takes over from the works council.

Under Labour Code, which came into effect in July 2017, employers must take the initiative to set up an elected works council when they have 20 or more employees. However, this is not necessary if more than one third of the workforce are members of an employer-level union or unions operating at the workplace. In that case, a works council is not formed, and all the powers and functions of the works council are transferred to the union, or to a joint union body, if there is more than one union operating at the employer.

 

A employer-level union can be set up provided that it has at least 20 employees as members, or its members account for at least 10% of the total workforce, provided there are at least three.

 

The introduction of the one-third threshold for union membership before unions replace works councils is a change on the situation before 2017. Under the previous Labour Code, works councils could only be set up where there were no unions – either       an employer-level union at the workplace, or an appropriate industry union to which the workforce had transferred its representation rights.

 

Employers with fewer than 20 employees can choose to have a single elected employee representative – an employee trustee.

 

Figures from the labour inspectorate covering 2018, suggest that the new Labour Code has produced a sharp increase in the number of workplaces with employee representation. It reports that between the legislation coming into force in July 2017 and the end of 2018, almost 4,000 employers notified the inspectorate that a new works council had been formed, with around 15,000 works council members being elected.[1] By 31 December 2018, the labour inspectorate reports, there were employee representatives in 39% of the employers surveyed by the inspectorate.  

 

These figures are difficult to reconcile with the results of Eurofound’s 2013 European Company Survey. These show a much higher level of workplace representation, even before the 2017 Labour Code. The Eurofound figures suggest that, in 2013, more than half (57%) of establishments in Lithuania with at least 10 employees had some form of official employee representation, either through the union, a works council or a single elected employee trustee. This figure is substantially above the EU28 average of 32%. As elsewhere in Europe, larger organisations were much more likely to have such a structure than smaller ones. The survey shows that 92% of establishments with more than 250 employees had representation, and 72% of those with between 50 and 249 employees. But even in smaller workplaces in Lithuania, those with between 10 and 49 employees, the survey indicates that over half (54%) had employee representation.[2]

 

Numbers and structure

 

How the employer-level union is organised, including the number of union representatives at the workplace, depends on the rules of the union, although as already noted an employer-level union can only be set up if its membership exceeds set thresholds. However, the number of senior figures in the employer-level union with time-off rights, training rights and protection against dismissal is linked to the number of employees in exactly the same way as the member of works council members – see table below.  

 

Employers must take the initiative to set up a works council once they have an average of 20 or more employees, unless more than one third of the workforce are members of an employer-level union or unions operating at the workplace.

 

Below the 20-employee threshold. a single employee trustee can be elected, although the employer is not obliged to initiate this process.

 

The average number of employees is calculated on the number of employees who are “bound with the employer by valid employment relations” for more than three months. This includes agency staff provided they have worked at the employer for more than three months and is a headcount figure rather than being based on full-time-equivalents. All those working for the employer are included irrespective of whether they are employed at different sites.

 

The size of the works council increases with the average number of employees (see table).

 

Number employed

Number of works council members

21 to 100

3

101 to 300

5

301-500

7

501-700

9

700+

11

 

If, after the election, the workforce increases by at least 20%, and rises above the next threshold in the table, the extra members required are chosen in an additional election.

 

The works council must elect a chair and secretary at its first meeting, and, as well as chairing the meetings, the chair also represents the works council in its relations with employees, the employer, the employer-level union and other bodies. He or she also drafts the annual report which the works council must publish on its activities. Once approved by the works council, this report must be presented to the employees.

 

The works council must draw up its own rules of procedure. The legislation does not prescribe the frequency of the meetings it should hold, but it states that the employer and representatives of the employer-level union are entitled to attend the meetings, if invited by the works council.

Tasks and rights

 

In contrast to the previous position, the Labour Code that came into effect in 2017 makes a clear distinction between the roles of the employer-level union and the works council. The exception is where more than a third of employees are members of the local union or unions. When union membership passes this threshold, the employer-level union takes over all the functions and rights that would normally be exercised by the works council.

 

Where this is not the case, the role of the employer-level union is to conduct collective bargaining (see section on collective bargaining) as well as to promote the union. It also defends the interests of its members and represents them in individual cases relating to their employment. The primary role of the works council, on the other hand, is to participate in information and consultation procedures with the employer and influence the employer’s decisions on economic, social and labour issues relevant to employees.

 

The tasks and rights of the single employee representative at employers with fewer than 20 workers – the employee trustee – are the same as those of the works council.

 

The information provided to the works council should be timely and accurate and the works council should not disclose confidential information. Consultation, defined as the exchange of opinions between the employer and the works council with the aim of finding a mutually acceptable solution, must begin within five working days of the employer receiving a request from the works council, and members of the works council are entitled to meet the employer and make proposals over a period of 15 days. During that period the employer must not act to implement the measure which is subject to consultation.

 

An employer employing 20 or more people must at the request of the works council provide it with annual data on average remuneration by occupational group and gender (excluding managerial employees), as well as information on part-time working, remote working, fixed-term contracts and agency work. If there is no works council, this information should be provided to the employer-level union.

 

An employer employing 20 or more workers must also provide the works council with information on an annual basis on:

  • the employer’s status and structure, and potential changes in employment, especially where employment may be at risk, including information about the categories and number of employees, including temporary workers, and past and planned personnel changes;
  • changes in pay and expected trends in pay;
  • working time, including information on overtime;
  • health and safety measures;
  • current and potential developments of the employer’s activities and economic situation, including information based on its financial statements and annual report; and
  • other matters of particular importance to the economic and social position of the employees.

 

The works council may ask for consultation on this information within five working days of receiving it, and that consultation must begin within 15 days of the employer receiving the request and must last for at least five days.   

 

Where is there no works council or employee trustee carrying out the functions of the works council, the employer must inform the employer-level trade union, which can express its view.

 

There are a number of specific issues where the employer Is required to consult with the works council before taking decisions. These are:

  • works rules, governing general procedures at the employer;
  • job standards;
  • the remuneration system, where this is not determined by a collective agreement;
  • the introduction of new technological processes;
  • using information and communication technologies for employee monitoring and surveillance;
  • measures which could violate employees’ personal privacy;
  • policies for the protection of the employee’s personal data;
  • the implementation of the equal opportunities policy; and
  • measures to reduce stress at work.

 

In relation to all these issues timetable is slightly different. The work council must be informed 10 working days before the measures are to be agreed and has three days to require that it should be consulted on them. Consultation should last for at least five days and the employer and works council are able to reach an agreement on the proposals, although there is no requirement that they must do so.

 

Where is there no works council or employee trustee carrying out the functions of the works council, the employer must inform the employer-level trade union, which can express its view.

 

The works council also has specific rights to information and consultation in the case of both collective redundancies and business transfer. The works council must also be consulted on selection criteria, even if the number involved is not large enough to be considered a collective redundancy and on annualised hours’ arrangements, where these exist. As in other areas, if there is no works council or employee trustee, the employer must inform the employer-level trade union, which can express its view. Annual leave arrangements can either be settled in a collective agreement or in an agreement with the works council.

 

The works council has the right to convene a meeting of employees, although the date must be coordinated with the employer. It must also inform employees annually on its activities through an annual report or in some other equivalent way.

 

The works council can also reach written agreements in areas to promote cooperation between the employer and the works council, although it may not negotiate pay, working time or other issues covered by collective bargaining. It has the right to take a case to a labour dispute commission if it considers that the employer has not complied with the law or agreed arrangements.

 

Election and term of office

 

The arrangements for choosing trade union representatives depend on the rules of the particular union.

 

Works councils should be elected by secret ballot at a meeting of all employees. All employees aged over 18 who have been in an employment relationship for at least six months, other than individuals representing the employers, have a right to be nominated. Nominations can be made by individual employees, who can each nominate one candidate, and by employer-level unions, who have the right to nominate at least three candidates.

 

All workers linked to the employer, including part-time, temporary and agency workers can vote, provided they have at least three months’ uninterrupted service are entitled to vote. The candidates with the most votes are elected.

 

There must be an election. If the number of candidates is not greater than the number of seats, the period for nominations is extended, and, if there are still insufficient candidates, the election is postponed for at least six months. A majority of the employees must participate for the election to be valid, although, if it is subsequently rerun because the first turn-out was too low, the second ballot will be valid if more than 25% of the employees take part.

 

Works council members are elected for three years.

 

Protection against dismissal

 

Members of employer-level trade union management bodies and work councils as well as the employee trustee may not be dismissed and their contract terms may not be worsened without the consent of the head of the local labour inspectorate. This protection, which continues for six months after leaving office, extends to the same number of members of employer-level trade union management bodies as there are or would be members of the works council, taking into account the number of employees.

 

Time off and other resources

 

Members of employer-level trade union management bodies and work councils as well as the employee trustee have the right to up to 60 hours paid time off a year undertake their duties. As with protection against dismissal, the number of members of the employer-level trade union benefiting from time off is linked to the number of employees in the same proportion as members of the works council.    

 

The employer must free of charge, allot a room and allow the use of work equipment for performance of the functions of the employee trustee, the members of the work council and the members of the management bodies of employer-level unions. Other support can be agreed through collective agreements or agreements with the works council.

 

Training rights

 

Members of employer-level trade union management bodies and work councils as well as the employee trustee have the right to at least five working days per year for training, of which two must be paid, although this can be increased by agreement. Part of the overall 60-hourstime off a year may also be used for training .As with time off the number of the employer-level union who can benefit from this is same as the number of works council members who benefit or could benefit.

Representation at group level

 

This may be provided by the trade union structure in the case of trade union workplace organisations.

 

There are no arrangements for works councils at group level, but the fact that a works council may only be set up at company level means that it may bring together employees from several workplaces.

[1] VDI Annual Report 2018, May 2019 https://www.vdi.lt/PdfUploads/DSS_tendencijos_2013_2018.pdf (Accessed 08.04.2020)

[2] Eurofound (2015), Third European Company Survey – Overview report: Workplace practices – Patterns, performance and well-being, Figures for Table 44

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.