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Workplace Representation

Lithuanian legislation now provides for employees at workplace level to be represented by a company-level trade union, by an external union, to which they have transferred their representational rights, or by a works council. Both company-level unions and works councils have almost identical functions, including collective bargaining and information and consultation, and since 2005, works councils can also organise strikes. In practice, most workplaces in Lithuania have neither.

Until 2003 workplace representation in Lithuania was provided solely through company-level trade unions. But the new Labour Code, which came into effect on 1 January 2003, provides for the setting up of elected works councils where there are no unions, either a functioning union at the workplace – the first option, or an appropriate industry union to which the workforce has transferred its representation rights – the next option.


A company-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 this is equivalent to three or more employees.

Figures from the labour inspectorate covering 2011 show that out of 12,325 companies/organisations inspected, 305 (2.5%) had a union at the workplace, 89 (0.7%) had transferred representation to an appropriate external union, and 153 (1.25)had set up a works councils or delegated the function of a works council to a single employee representative. (This last option is only available in companies/organisations employing fewer than 20 people.)1

These figures indicate that most organisations have no structures representing employees. However, they may understate the extent of employee representation, as employee representatives are more common in larger companies and organisations.

This is indicated by a separate study undertaken by the Institute of Labour and Social Research (Darbo ir Socialinių Tyrimų Institutas) for the Tripartite Commission in 2006. This found that only 4.0% of all companies surveyed had either a works council or a single employee representative. However, they were found more frequently in larger companies: 37.5% of those employing 250 people or more had a works council, compared with 26.9% of those employing 50 to 249; and 10.6% of those employing 10 to 49. However, only one of the 745 very small companies surveyed – those with fewer than 10 employees – had an elected employee representative, equivalent to 0.1%.2

Numbers and structure

The number of union workplace representatives depends on the rules of the union, although as already noted a company-level union can only be set up if its membership exceeds set thresholds.

If there is no union, a works council can be set up once there are 20 employees in a company; below that level a single employee representative can be elected. Since 2008 it has only been necessary for one tenth of the workforce to request that a works council be set up for the process to begin – before that, at least 20% had to make the request.

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

Number employed

Number of works council members















There can only be one works council at a company, irrespective of the number of plants it has.

Tasks and rights

Workplace employee representatives, whether in a local union organisation or in a works council, generally have the same rights. The right to organise strike action, which previously had been limited to unions, was extended to works councils in 2005.

The rights of workplace employee representatives include: negotiating collective agreements at workplace level; making proposals both to the employer and the state; ensuring compliance with legal obligations with a right to appeal to a court where necessary; protecting the interests of employees when the business is transferred; and being informed and consulted.

Information and consultation should cover: the activities of the business; the current and future state of labour relations and employment; and possible redundancies. The precise arrangement for providing this information should be set out in a collective agreement.

Work regulations should also be approved by the employee representatives.

In practice it is not clear how far employers meet their requirements, as labour law is frequently not observed.

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. At least 50% of the employees should participate for the election to be valid.

Works council members are elected for three years. Their term of office continues, even if a trade union is established in the company after the works council has been set up. Where this happens, the trade union and the works council should work together in a joint body which represents employees for all issues, including collective bargaining. If the two bodies cannot work together, a meeting of employees decides which of the two should represent them.

In all cases, if a trade union has been established in the interim, the works council ceases to exist at the end of its term of office.

Protection against dismissal

Workplace trade union representatives and members of works councils cannot be dismissed unless the body to which they belong, workplace union or works council, agrees. Where dismissal is refused the employer can take the issue to a court for a final decision.

Time off and other resources

The legislation states that employers should “provide conditions for the representatives of the employees to perform their functions”.

Following legislative changes in 2013, both the local union representatives and works council members have the same rights to time off and training. They are both entitled to up to 60 hours paid time off a year undertake their duties. (This also includes meeting for works council members.) They are granted three paid days off per year for training – more if a collective agreement improves on this provision. The employer should also provide premises – a room – for the works council to undertake its functions.

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.

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.