MP Tomilinas: Labour Code was written at request of business to facilitate sacking of workers

Tomas Tomilinas, Eglė Samoškaitė
DELFI / Kiril Čachovskij

MP Tomas Tomilinas, a representative of Farmers and Greens Union group, admitted that the Labour Code was written at the request of business, so it would be easy to fire employees. However, he says that the Code with the amendments by the Tripartite council will have to be adopted, and the employees need to fight for their wages and negotiate their contracts in unions.

“Our mentality and identity is that everyone thinks of themselves as a businessman, and even a minimum wage worker wants to quit, take a loan and earn a million. I’m afraid but that’s not going to happen. We have to realize that most of us will work for the same pay and we have to do something about it. We need to unite and think what we can do about that” said the farmer representative.

T. Tomilinas, who is the assistant to the Parliament’s Social and Labour Committee chairman, agrees that some Labour Code provisions that have been postponed are faulty. But he promises to adopt only the provisions that were agreed on in the Tripartite council, even though it’s not much.

In your comment to DELFI, you wrote that “the concessions that were done for the employers by the organizations, who represent employees, have to become the basis for an unusual process – negotiations for collective agreements”. Does it mean that you agree that the postponed Labour Code is in the favor of the employer instead of the employee?

Without a doubt. The goal from the start was to make firing employees easier, relations more flexible, to have less imperative provisions. The business thinks that their hands are tied and they need more freedom to be competitive. This was their need that was clearly defined and the public met that need.

Not yet…

Let’s say that they did when they started considering it. Believe me, competitive companies existed with the old Labour Code: there was profit, export, everything. We can’t say that the old Code is harmful for business.

It’s just that they voiced this need that this will help them in being more competitive and increase the wages, achieve better results.

You’ve presented the idea before voting on the Labour Code and its provisions, that were agreed on in the Tripartite council. Employers, employees and the Government should agree on wages. This was met critically. The President said that it’s impossible. What would be the instruments to make it happen?

I’ve explained this a little. Living in market economy, we have a limited number of instruments to increase the people’s welfare as everything is depends on market relations: a person comes to work and negotiates the pay until he achieves something.

But the civilized world created more instruments that I’ve talked about. I’d like that this discussion would be wider in Lithuania than it is now. That we’d listen not only to one opinion but see that there are more instruments. Yes, the market is the main thing that helps to determine and balance the pay, but there are more collective negotiation instruments, which aren’t used in Lithuania.

We can state that the tripartite council is only an instrument in negotiating the minimum pay and the Labour Code. I think that the tripartite format can be expanded and take on the negotiations of sectors. The main axis of the agreement is the collective indexing of business associations, which represent some companies, and other important questions.

Until now the talks only involved minimum pay and regulation of work relations. I want to take the attention away from the law to agreements in certain business branches and also state sectors.

Should all business branches reach an agreement on the same model?

Yes, they have to meet. The problem is that no one talks about anything. If you ask salesmen, food representatives, pharmacists, cleaning servicemen, employee representatives, they will all say that no one has never talked to us about anything.

Business associations exist and they represent businesses, but all of them visit the Parliament: Vladas Sutkus, Danas arlauskas, Robertas Dargis, Rūta Skyrienė, they all act like lobyists. They achieve some goals with the proportion to the state.

My goal is for them to look for similarities with the employees.

In a Parliaments’ press conference you mentioned that agreements like these have to be achieved before voting for the Labour code. But this sounds like a long-term process.

Yes, I’m consistent. I started talking about this after a week in Parliament. The first ones that I talked to were R. Skyrienė, D. Arlauskas, and we started from that. Employers said that they suggested procedures that can be agreed on numerous times. Of course, the business needs assurance that the tax system will remain unchanged, which is understandable.

In this case, I gave a suggestion on a tripartite dialogue, status and weight, basic procedures. I won’t go into education reform or other business related things, this is a job for other committees. I need to concentrate on wage policy.

It did not happen up until this point. You should ask what the Department of Labour was doing. Creating the Labour code. That is not enough. The whole department is just officers, they have to analyze which sectors are improving and which are not.

Are they doing analysis like these?

They’re doing nothing. Nothing is happening with this, the work is sketchy and I have some demands for the new management of the Ministry of social security and Labour. To increase the quality of labour politics is the job for both state and private sectors. It just needs political attention.

For example, supermarket baker, who bake amazing cakes. How much do they earn? Minimum plus 30-40 euros for the last ten years? They are extremely qualified, the cakes are fantastic, and? They leave because they can barely support themselves in this country.

If you state that the Ministry’s Department of Social Security and labour do not carry out their functions, did you talk about this with Minister Linas Kukuraitis?

Of course. That’s what we’ve started from. One of our priorities is the negotiating power of people, pay policy and this was the first topic we have talked about before the Government had formed.

There was just no public attention for this. So far it is interested in the Labour Code, because it is a popular topic, even though to a level the Code is a national collective contract. However, in my opinion we have to go from the level of laws to collective agreements in small steps.

Yes, on a certain level a law is an agreement and our decision to postpone the Labour Code going into force was us, showing that it is possible to agree. That tripartite negotiations is an important practice and that it is not a bonus of a political whim.

But when you say that it is possible to agree but the agreements in the Tripartite Council are weak, we can see different opinions. It means that the people sat down, talked, but did not agree. There are a lot of important disagreements: strikes and lockouts, no competition agreements, which are important to both qualified and unqualified employee. What was lacking for the negotiations?

I think that there are several reasons. The most important one is that there is not enough negotiating power for the employee, unions are weak and cannot affect the employers. We have that problem.

I suggest to foresee a state commitment on pay in the tripartite agreement, we will encourage professional unions and will compensate the member fee from the state budget. It’s a Scandinavian practice. The Ministry’s Department of Labour is already calculating how much it is going to cost. I doubt that the numbers will be large. But there’s a result – we’ll have the exact number of union members. Now some say that there’s 20 per cent, others, 10 per cent, I know that it’s only about 4 per cent.

So our goal is to take inventory and provide an additional tool. It’s a great instrument for the unions, especially those that have real members.

We have to end talks about the Labour code: they can’t go on forever. There’s an agreement, there’s a lot of leniency from both sides. I agree that there are a lot of important concessions left for the business, problem areas. It should encourage the employees to turn a new page and talk about negotiations.

Do you believe in this? The employers might raise the pay and pay for overtime without additional agreements, just as the Labour Code states.

I do believe that. All employers are not the same. We can’t compare “Maxima”, “Senukai”, “iki”, “Rimi”, or big pharmaceutical companies with regular services, small bakeries and owners of business licenses.

Our mentality and identity is that everyone thinks of themselves as a businessman, and even a minimum wage worker wants to quit, take a loan and earn a million. I’m afraid but that’s not going to happen. We have to realize that most of us will work for the same pay and we have to do something about it. We need to unite and think what we can do about that.

For example, there is a publishers association, media groups and there’s Dainius Radzevičius, who manages the Lithuanian journalist union. Who forbids him to come to the Ministry of Social security and Labour and talk, what is the lowest wage that a journalist can earn? No one. We’ll look at the statistics of “Sodra” and see.

For example, they began announcing average pay and discussions just started. And if that was done professionally: if D. Radzevičius would si from one and publishers and media groups from another side. I think we’d have a great discussion.

Despite your statements that collective labor relations is a very important phenomenon that enables employees, collective agreements and the Labor Code is one part of the picture. Why some strange provisions are left in the Labor Code such as that temporary employment companies won’t get licensed? Lawyers say that the Inspection of Labor cannot control them, because they pretend that the employee is not employed, but that they are buying a service.

I agree. In my opinion, the companies should be licensed and it would show respect to negotiations. I, as a Member of the Parliament, can present an amendment and there’s a good chance that it will get support, there will be a discussion, even it does not matter what the Government thinks, it can go either way.

But my obligation as an MP it to follow a basic principle – respect the agreement of the Tripartite Council.

From your point of view, if you see that that the remaining provision is not correct, the Tripartite decision is still more important to you rather than a provision which is fair? Even if the Tripartite Council negotiations began not with a clean slate but from the Code of Algirdas Butkevičius.

I agree, we started from previous conditions, and from previous work. We can’t change the balance of power this fast, and I don’t want the Parliament to be a balance for the employers.

Then why is a Parliament necessary?

We did so that now the employers are listening and thinking what the employees and the unions are a force. The elections can radically change the Parliament, there will be no old friends anymore. It’s a strong signal to business. Another signal was that the President can veto their desired law.

Yes, the power is in the politician’s hands, but they have to use that responsibly. And if the pressure from employees won’t increase, no one will unify and negotiate, today the politicians can make a good decision, and a bad one tomorrow.

I’m pleased that there will be a rally of unions on Friday. It’s rare. And it’s near the Government or the Parliament, but near the headquarters of the employers. I’d like them to talk among themselves about things that only they know in detail. But it’s important to cover more issues than minimal pay and common norms.

Did I understand correctly: you want the system to be like this: The Parliament will approve a Labour Code that it more favorable to employers but the Parliament will try to enable workers together to negotiate with employers?

Yes. I think that the thing they have achieved by postponing the Code, is a change in itself. I think that it’s important that the employers agreed let in unions to works councils. For me, the key provision is that large companies, where the number of employees is more than 20, have to have a works council.

There was a dilemma: why a new work council system is being created and unions are being pushed aside. It was an attempt to eliminate unions from most of the companies. But they were active and they negotiated their place in each work council. It means that it will be much easier to create a union in a company where there is none, once there’s a work council.

This is how it looks from the outside: A. Butkevičius Labour code will be adopted with minimal amendments, but the employees will be encouraged to negotiate collectively. But this is done by a party, which won the elections by emphasized social inequality, criticizing the Social Democrats and Ramūnas Karbauskis, the chairman of the Farmers and Greens Union, even asked the President to veto the Labour Code of A. Butkevičius.

We of course can adopt everything, that was vetoed’, what we see as the most perfect and ignore the negotiations. We can do that in theory. But here I hope for some business responsibility and good will in some work relations. If we just turn on the bulldozer, communication will be difficult.

Vilnius regional Court passed a decision in a case of one employee, who was formally employed in one of the temporary employment companies but in reality worked in a candy factory. Her contract was not full time, which is 120 in the accounting time (4 months). Since the court explained that a job that exceeds the working hours is not overtime, it means zero contract, even though the Labour Code, neither old nor new, does not legalize that, they are not safe and te employee does not get health insurance and cannot go to the Labour exchange. Don’t you think that a total work accounting for non-full time has to be set, like it was before 2010?

I have information on this case and I think that we have to analyse this situation and provide a separate concept on how to solve this issue, but not in this cycle. Right now I don’t have an answer for that but I see a problem. However, from the 1st of July, the Labour Code won’t be something sacred that cannot be touched.

About Egle Samoskaite 31 Articles
Rašau vidaus ir užsienio politikos temomis. Domiuosi darbo santykių reforma Lietuvoje, procesais politinių partijų viduje. Užsienio politikos srityje rašau apie santykius su Rusija ir JAV, taip pat Vidurio Rytus, ypač daug dėmesio skiriu politiniams procesams Turkijoje. Labai domiuosi musulmonų bendruomenių gyvenimu Europoje. Vilniaus universitete esu baigusi Tarptautinių santykių ir politikos mokslų institutą, žurnalistinę karjerą pradėjau naujienų agentūroje BNS.
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