Home / National Industrial Relations / Countries / Latvia / Workplace Representation

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.[1] 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.

 

There are no national figures on the extent of employee representation at the workplace, but the results of Eurofound’s 2013 European Company Survey indicate that it is very limited. They show that, in 2013, just 9% of establishments in Latvia with at least 10 employees had some form of official employee representation, either through the union, an elected workplace representative or a European works council. This figure is substantially below the EU28 average of 32%, and one of the lowest in Europe. As elsewhere in Europe, larger organisations were much more likely to have such a structure than smaller ones. The survey shows that 31% of establishments with more than 250 employees had representation, and 22% of those with between 50 and 249 employees. In smaller workplaces in Latvia, those with between 10 and 49 employees, only 6% had employee representation.[2]

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. The legislation states that temporary workers should be included in this number as should employees “within the scope of the work placement service”. There is no specific reference to part-time workers, suggesting that the calculation is based on head count.

 

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 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.

 

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 employees at an employees’ 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, but, apart from this, the law says nothing about the mechanics of the election or the nomination procedure.

 

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.

 

Training rights

 

There are no statutory provisions for training for employee representatives.

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.

[1] Labour Law. 20.06.2001 and subsequent amendments

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

L. Fulton (2020) National Industrial Relations, an update. Labour Research Department and ETUI (online publication). Online publication available at http://www.worker-participation.eu/National-Industrial-Relations.