Estonian unions protest over collective agreement plan

  • 2012-02-20

TALLINN - More than a thousand Estonian workers marched and staged a rally in the center of Tallinn on Feb. 18 to protest government plans to make it easier for employers to terminate collective agreements, reports LETA, referring to Bloomberg.

Protesters, many of whom were representatives of the mainly Russian-speaking mining and energy workers' unions from northeastern Estonia, today carried slogans through Tallinn's medieval old town saying "For a decent life," and "Workers won't let themselves be fooled."

The government "keeps demonstrating a reckless and patronizing attitude toward workers," Harri Taliga, the chairman of the Confederation of Estonian Trade Unions, said in a speech at the rally.

Draft legislation that's cleared the first of three parliamentary readings would stop collective agreements from running indefinitely, which the Justice Chancellor has ruled unconstitutional, according to an explanatory letter on the legislature's website. Lawmakers have ignored the unions' proposals to keep the main terms of a terminated agreement valid for a transition period, harming workers' rights, Taliga said in a phone interview.

The unions plan to hold protests at their workplaces next week and will begin strikes on March 5, 2012.

The action will peak with a strike of teachers and daycare workers, starting March 7, 2012, which may be supported by other unions, according to Taliga.