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Employee 'voice' and working environment in post-communist New Member States: An empirical analysis of Estonia, Latvia a PowerPoint Presentation
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Employee 'voice' and working environment in post-communist New Member States: An empirical analysis of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania Charles Woolfson, Dace Calite and Epp Kallaste.

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Employee 'voice' and working environment in post-communist New Member States: An empirical analysis of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

Charles Woolfson, Dace Calite and EppKallaste

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'Employee 'voice' and working environment in post-communist New Member States: An empirical analysis of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania'

Charles Woolfson, Dace Calite and Epp Kallaste

International seminar on

Worker Representation and Workplace Health & Safety

Cardiff Work Environment Research Centre

10th October 2007

1 7 million
1.7 million

2.4 million

3,4 million

main themes
Main themes
  • Baltic Working Environment and Labour (BWEL) survey of 800 employers and 1200 employees conducted in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, in the second half of 2006 and early 2007.
  • A first estimate of the current state of the working environment, social dialogue and labour standards following accession to the EU, focussing on the issue of workforce representation and participation in health and safety.
  • Implications for workforce ‘voice’ in health and safety are explored in terms of broader issues of convergence and divergence of post-communist states within a wider European framework.
european foundation fourth working conditions survey 2005
European Foundation Fourth Working Conditions Survey, (2005)
  • With regard to the Baltic States, European Foundation data reveal 49.1% Latvian, 43.4% Lithuanian and 39.4% Estonian respondents claiming their health and safety at risk because of their work.
work intensification1
Work intensification
  • A total of 55.1% of respondents in Latvia, 53.9% in Estonia and 52.7% in Lithuania reported that their work intensity/working pace had increased ‘considerably’ or ‘slightly’ in the previous twelve months
working at very high speed and to tight deadlines
Working at very high speed and to tight deadlines
  • working at very high speed ‘about half the time’ or ‘all of the time’. Two thirds (66.0%) of Latvian respondents, and around three-quarters of Lithuanian (71.2%) and Estonian (77.1%) respondents reported affirmatively.
  • working to tight deadlines ‘half the time’ or ‘all of the time’, four out of five Latvian (81%) and Estonian (82.1%) and nearly two-thirds of Lithuanian respondents (62.3%) agreed.
working physical effort1
Working physical effort
  • While physical intensity of work is still increasing especially in Lithuania, it is possibly doing so at a slower rate than in previous years, indicating that some kind of physical effort ‘ceiling’ has been reached.
  • Respondents reported that physical effort had ‘considerably’ or ‘somewhat’ increased as follows: Latvia 29%; Estonia 21%; Lithuania 31%
working mental effort1
Working mental effort
  • When asked to say if working mental effort had ‘considerably’ or ‘somewhat’ increased, a larger proportion of BWEL survey respondents reported intensification of effort in the previous year: Latvia 46%; Estonia 43%; Lithuania 33%.
  • High levels of reported stress in the three Baltic States is comparable with data from the European Working Conditions Survey (stress factors particularly acutely present in the Baltics).
  • Negative impacts on employees’ health resulting from stress are reported at more than 10 percentage points higher in the Baltic States (Latvia 36.9%; Lithuania 31% and Estonia 32.4%) as against the EU average (22.3%).
legislative compliance with the acquis but uneven implementation
Legislative compliance with the acquis but uneven implementation
  • Health and safety committees mainly in the larger enterprises (more than 50 employees).
  • Employers resistance to any form of worker representation especially in new private sector
  • Trade unions opposed to development of forms of non-union workforce representation but have few resources to develop in this area
trade unionisation in the baltic states
Trade unionisation in the Baltic States
  • Latvia –15% of workforce (EIRO report. 2005)
  • Lithuania – 10% of the workforce (EIRO report, 2005)
  • Estonia – 9% of the workforce (LFS, 2006)
workforce attitudes to trade unions
Workforce attitudes to trade unions
  • ‘Trade unions are a necessary protection for employees against employers’. Latvia 51.4%, Lithuania 42.1% and Estonia 42.9% respondents ‘completely’ or ‘rather’ agreed
  • ‘Trade unions are a threat to successful business’. Estonia (10.1%), Latvia (9.1%), Lithuania (5.7%) supported this view
  • ‘Trade unions are too weak to be of much help to workers’. Latvia 44.2%, Estonia 42.7% and Lithuania 44.6% respondents ‘completely’ or ‘rather’ agreed.
  • ‘Trade unions should have the right to participate more in decision making in the plant’. Latvia 56.5%, Estonian 49.3%, Lithuania 46.3% respondents ‘completely’ or ‘rather’ agreed.
workforce ambivalence
Workforce ambivalence
  • This ‘realistic’ perception of current low level of trade union capacities hence workforce’s ambivalent evaluation of trade unions
  • As significant as ongoing ‘contamination’ effect arising from union role in the previous social system
  • This ‘realistic’ perception predisposes workers to seek an individualistic rather than collectivist response to wage and conditions bargaining issues at workplace level.
eu policy on workforce involvement in health and safety
EU policy on workforce involvement in health and safety
  • Cornerstone of the European Union’s previous occupational health and safety strategy (2002-2006) has been the attempt to promote a ‘culture of risk prevention’ in the workplace.
  • ‘strengthening social dialogue at all levels, particularly in firms’
  • Successful OHS integration - one of the ‘key challenges of enlargement’
new community strategy 2007 2012
New Community Strategy 2007-2012
  • Claims success for previous strategy in significant reduction in workplace fatalities 2002-2006 but no objective assessment offered
  • New Strategy seeks 25% reduction in injuries and illness across member States by 2012
  • No mention of New Member States and their (qualitatively?) poorer working environment
  • No mention of social dialogue as pathway to improvement
  • Dominated by neo-liberal Lisbon agenda concerns of competitiveness and growth (legislative simplification, easing of ‘burdens’ etc)
main findings
Main findings

Our study suggests:-

  • a comparatively poor working environment exists in Baltic NMS
  • Ineffective implementation of EU health and safety consultation requirements
  • Underlying but unrealised ‘consensualism’ on OHS
  • Lack of employee ‘voice’ in the workplace health and safety management, due to the absence of social dialogue in the workplace in Baltic NMS
  • new EU strategy for occupational health and safety for 2007-2012 takes no account either of the deteriorated working environment in the NMS or the need to strengthen social dialogue