TALLINN - The warning strike staged by the Estonian Seamen's Independent Union (EMSA) on vessels of listed Estonian shipper Tallink Grupp on Monday was carried out successfully, according to the union.
The warning strike concerned three vessels, and over 50 percent of the workers who were permitted to take part in the strike, a total of 176 people, were involved in it, according to EMSA.
According to EMSA chairman Juri Lember, it was not just union members participating in the strike, but also non-union members of the ship's crew, which in his opinion confirms that the majority of workers on the ships support the wage demands presented by the union. He added that collective addresses drawn up by the crews and signed by over 350 workers have reached EMSA in recent weeks, in which the workers protest the low rate of salary raise and express their support to EMSA's negotiations and demands.
On Thursday last week, EMSA informed Tallink Grupp and its subsidiaries OU Hansaliin and OU HT Laevateenindus of a warning strike to be organized on Monday, Jan. 16. Tallink deems the strike unlawful and has taken legal action, and the Harju County Court accepted the lawsuit on Monday.
According to the union, the 7-10 percent wage increase over a two-year period that the employers have granted to employees is not acceptable for employees considering the increase in the cost of living and the resulting drop in real wages. Negotiations over the collective agreement started at the end of September, and meetings with Tallink's representatives have taken place on seven occasions.
Tallink spokesperson Katri Link said in response to the union's announcement that in December 2022, EMSA unexpectedly and unilaterally discontinued the ongoing collective bargaining and turned to the public conciliator for a deal to be forged.
"At this point, when the process to resume negotiations with the public conciliator is ongoing and the existing collective agreement is valid, we believe that the warning strike announced by EMSA is against the law," Link said.
"Collective agreement wage negotiations between EMSA and the employer broke down on Dec. 12, because the employer's delegation, after a 10-minute break during which the delegation consulted with someone outside the negotiation room, said that take it or leave it, this is our maximum offer. There was no point in continuing collective bargaining after such an ultimatum," the EMSA chairman, Juri Lember, said.
"Regardless of the discontinuation of the negotiations by EMSA, Tallink increased wages as of Jan. 1, 2023 on the basis of a bilateral agreement with seagoing personnel, as it has done in the past years, irrespective of the economic difficulties caused by the pandemic and the geopolitical situation. As of today, more than 87 percent of Tallink's seagoing personnel have signed the wage increase agreement and the number is growing every day," Link noted.
EMSA said that employees signing the individual agreements proposed by the employer does not indicate that the workers do not support the improvement of salary conditions as proposed by the trade union in the course of collective bargaining.