Trade unions demand raise

  • 2000-10-12
  • Aleksei Gynter
TALLINN - The Estonian Trade Unions Central Association (EAKL) threatens to block Estonian roads if the Industry and Employers Central Union (ETTK) does not agree to raise minimum wages to 1,600 kroons ($89), according to the association.

"The only way for us to reach our goal (minimum wages raise) is by demonstration of power," said Tonu Vare, EAKL's spokesman. He also said pickets and other ways to express employees' resentment might be used.

In late September the association quit all bilateral and trilateral talks with ETTK on raising minimum wages from the present level of 1,400 kroons ($78) by 200 kroons, because the employees of Krenholm textile mill disagreed with unlinking their minimum wages from the state wages system.

Social Affairs Minister Heiki Nestor told BNS on Oct. 4 that a trilateral agreement on a minimum wage might be signed at the end of October, if Krenholm management and employees will meet halfway.

According to Vare, the employers either could not or did not wish to make a compromise and sign the agreement. "Moreover, they are afraid of losing their prestige now," stated Vare.

Trade unions had planned a protest for Oct. 9, but postponed it.

The employers, however, hope for no future protests.

"We think the association will not use power measures," said Kadri Parn, ETTK's PR manager.

Parn said the ETTK proposed to continue talks and hopes the association will give a positive reply.

The raise is real, but in some spheres of economy the minimum wages must be unlinked from the state wages system, according to Parn. "If they are linked, the company may go bankrupt."

An example of such a company is Krenholm textile mill, one of the biggest Estonian enterprises. "If the minimum wages at the mill are linked to the state system, the production will become unprofitable," said Parn.