Survey of Employees’ Attitudes

Employees do not prioritize labour laws and would accept a freer employment regulation, a survey shows

A representative sociological survey conducted by the Lithuanian Free Market Institute (LFMI) and the company RAIT demonstrates that the majority of employed people in Lithuania do not prioritise laws regulating employment and would not object if employment regulation was not as rigid as it is at present.

The survey was aimed at eliciting how employees evaluated relations between employers and employees, the working time, salaries and other issues of labour, as well as various violations of labour laws.

As the survey results show, the majority of working individuals in Lithuania do not think that employment relations should be characterised as hostile. In other words, employees do not think that labour laws are intended to protect them as a weaker party of employment relations (68.1 percent of respondents).

Nearly half of those polled believe that the source of improvement of their working conditions is development and a better financial situation of companies they work in, rather than government, a stricter regulation or control.

The poll also uncovered that every third employee, both in private and public sector, works overtime which is not paid respectively. Four out of five working individuals would agree to work overtime and receive extra remuneration for such work. LFMI believes that people are sending a clear signal that they do work overtime despite official prohibition. Thus it is necessary to amend the Lithuanian Labour Code and allow working overtime officially – only under such circumstances workers would have opportunities to work extra time legally and to demand official payment for overtime work.

More than half of respondents (59.6 percent) think that regulation of the working time is not very important because the length of their work usually depends on mutual agreement with an employer, notwithstanding that the Labour Code either fixes a certain working time or delegates it to be regulated by collective contracts. This leads to the conclusion that workers do not give much prominence to the power of labour laws, collective or formally concluded labour contracts.

Respondents were also asked to evaluate the activities of trade unions in Lithuania. The results show that only 14.9 percent of working individuals are satisfied with trade unions’ representation of their interests. As much as 56.2 percent respondents reported to have negative views regarding trade unions’ work: 33.1 percent said trade unions were detached from workers, 13 percent believe trade unions mind the interests of their leaders, and 10.1 percent thought that trade unions were incapable to represent the variety of interests of private individuals.

LFMI is of the opinion that such adverse attitudes towards the activity of trade unions should alarm trade unions in the first place and also the government which has vested wide powers to trade unions to represent the interests of all employees in the country (e.g. in the Tripartite Council). Taking into account that workers evaluate the activity of trade unions rather unfavourably, the first thing to do for decision makers is to eliminate the wide powers granted to trade unions to conclude collective contracts on behalf of all workers (even those who are not members of trade unions).

This opinion poll was carried out in 24 November – 3 December 2005 and 1,093 Lithuanian residents of 16 to 74 years of age were polled. The results were presented at a press conference on 15 March 2006.