2 – Repeated violations of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index

Estonia

The ITUC affiliate in Estonia is the Confederation of Estonian Trade Unions (EAKL).

In practice

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AS Tallink Grupp breaches collective agreement25-01-2020

In 2015, the Estonian Seamen’s Independent Union independent union A trade union that is not affiliated to a national union. Can also be a union that is not dominated by an employer.

See yellow union

(EMSA) agreed in their collective agreement with AS Tallink Grupp and its subcontractors that the companies would pay an annual lump sum in the welfare fund for their workers’ benefits. While the agreement was applied until 2018, in 2019 the employer unilaterally announced that no payment would be made for 2019.

During meetings with the unions to resolve the issue, the employer made demands to access workers’ personal information regarding the welfare fund, which is in violation of the law protecting data. The employer also tried to give instructions to unions in managing the funds. The unions refused such blatant attempts at interfering in the management of the welfare funds.

While an agreement was found for 2020, EMSA still intends to bring a complaint before court against the AS Tallink Grupp in order to guarantee the implementation of the collective agreement. The Estonian Trade Union Confederation has expressed its concern at this clear violation of the collective agreement and this attempt at controlling trade union activities and accessing sensitive workers’ information.

TS Laevad bypasses collective bargaining30-06-2018

The Independent Seamens’ Union of Estonia (EMSA) reported that in June 2018, during negotiations of the collective agreement, Mart Loik, member of the TS Laevad management board, organised a meeting with workers and proposed to conclude a collective agreement directly with them, bypassing EMSA. He offered the same benefits that the union demanded and that the management had so far refused to agree on in the collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
negotiations.
The EMSA immediately asked for a public apology from TS Laevad, alleging the company made false salary level statements of its EMSA employees and implied that the EMSA made unreasonable requests, and “was interested only in its own members”. One EMSA demand is indeed a pay raise of €0.50 to €5 per hour, which is still two euros lower than the pay in other shipping companies with which the EMSA has collective agreements. According to EMSA, TS Laevad management also engaged in unethical behaviour in offering sweeteners to employees in order to induce them not to sign any collective agreement.
The union is considering taking Port of Tallinn (Tallinna Sadam) subsidiary TS Laevad to court, claiming misrepresentation, and prolonging its dispute with the company on collective agreement, though it says strikes are not inevitable.

Transiidikeskuse AS refuses to reinstate a shop steward30-10-2017

In October 2015, Transiidikeskuse AS, a stevedoring company, terminated the contract of a worker right after he was elected as shop steward shop steward A union worker who represents the members of a union in dealings with the employer. Often elected by union members who work in the same establishment. . The case was brought to the court which ruled on 29 June 2016 that the termination was wrongful. On the same day however his job was made redundant. On 30 October 2017, the court again declared that the grounds for his dismissal were not valid and therefore his termination was wrongful. The company did not reinstate him. Instead, the management barred him from entering the company’s premises while still paying him his wages. An application has been filed with the Labour Inspectorate to resolve the matter which was still pending at the time of writing. Transiidikeskuse AS still refuses to recognise the legally established trade union and rejects all attempts at negotiating a collective agreement.

Difficult to defend workers’ rights31-12-2010

The Confederation of Estonian Trade Unions reports that unions often encounter general problems in defending employee rights. These often relate to the legal processes: establishing discrimination in employment tribunals is a new phenomenon and there is little experience in handling such cases. It remains relatively easy to dismiss trade union activists in the work place as there is no obligation under the Employment Contract Act (ECA) to reinstate a fired trade union representative if it is not reasonable once both parties’ interests have been taken into account. Compensation is often reduced by courts or tribunals even though there is provision for it at a reasonable level in the ECA. Court procedures are slow and expensive, whilst claims for compensation in case of unlawful termination of an employment contract are subject to relatively high fees.

Anti-union activities30-11-2009

The Confederation of Estonian Trade Unions (EAKL) reports that anti-union behaviour is rife in the private sector. In some enterprises, workers are advised against forming trade unions, threatened with dismissal or a reduction in wages, or promised benefits if they do not join unions. “Yellow unions” are sometimes formed.

Weak enforcement30-11-2009

Law enforcement depends mostly on labour inspectorates, which rarely pursue cases of anti-union behaviour. A legal battle can be followed by a struggle to enforce the decision of a court or a labour dispute labour dispute See industrial dispute resolution committee. For example, when an unfairly dismissed shop steward shop steward A union worker who represents the members of a union in dealings with the employer. Often elected by union members who work in the same establishment. was awarded reinstatement but was not allowed back to work, he had to contact the private bailiff, who demands a deposit of 50% of the monthly minimum wage.

Collective bargaining difficult30-04-2009

It is estimated that between 20 and 25% of the workforce is covered by collective agreements. Both public and private employers tend to be reluctant to engage in collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
and delay the process. The economic crisis made negotiations difficult, and even profitable companies demanded concessions or failed to honour agreements. For example, in May, shipping company Tallink stopped paying wage supplements provided for in the collective agreement, and only asked the trade union for new negotiations afterwards.

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