A few comments by the Trade Union of Lithuanian Food Producers about
the judgment of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Lithuania regarding
the lawfulness of the strike declared at Švyturys – Utenos Alus UAB.

1. The Court of first
instance / Klaipeda Regional Court
by postponing the strike declared by the Joint Representation of the Trade
Unions for 30 days maintained that the production of beer was immediate
(vital/essential) needs
and the strike might present a threat to the
satisfaction of such needs.

2. From the prospective of/ In the light of the
Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, restrictions/
limitations of human rights must be carried out/ exercised/ executed in
compliance with law; it must have a goal and satisfy urgent/ immediate social
need in a democratic society and must be proportionate. Therefore, the
suspension of the strike declared by the trade unions for an indefinite period
of time failing to observe the law (the law provides only up to 30
days in order to ensure that the immediate/ vital needs of the public are met
and, of course, not having the production of beer in mind
) means a
restriction of the workers’ right to strike which are not provided by the
legislation  that constitutes,  in our opinion, a violation of the workers’
right to strike.

3. The Supreme Court of Lithuania admitted that under the
provisions of the Collective Agreement concerning the revision of payment new
levels of wages must be determined by way of negotiations by 1 April every
year. That means, in our opinion, that it’s not the employer who unilaterally
determines wages, but wages are fixed by agreement of the parties. If the
parties fail to reach an agreement, the workers have the right to strike.  Unfortunately, the Court held that the very
fact that the parties bargained over the levels of pay and the process was fair
and in good faith is sufficient as the employer offered to increase wages by
1.8 %. In other words, the way the court sees it, if the employer agrees to come
to negotiations over pay and such negotiations take place although without
arriving at any agreement, the workers have no right to declare a strike.
negotiations without the right to strike are not negotiations, but begging, because
apart from their right to go on strike or a real threat of having a
strike,  workers are not equipped with
any other levers to influence the employer’s decisions over their working

4. The courts by observing that workers’ wages at Švyturio
-Utenos Alus AB are significantly higher than the average in the country failed to take into consideration the fact
that the company paid 200 million
Litas in dividends and the profitability is three times higher than the average
of companies in Lithuania.
It is interesting to note that all the dividends paid left Lithuania for Denmark. We are of the opinion that
it is beyond the competence of courts to assess the reasonableness and
expediency of the workers’ demands. It must be up to the negotiating parties to
reach an agreement
. If the court considers that employees are paid
too much we could go back to the planned economy when, levels of pay were fixed
in a centralised manner for the whole country.
 In such a case would it be possible
for courts after having determined how much employees in each company should
earn to
increase wages for those employees who earn too little?  

We strongly believe that, any dispute between the
parties over how much wages should be increased or whose economic interests –
the employer’s or the employees’ – should be satisfied or what kind of economic
compromise can be reached must be resolved with help of economic levers  – in this particular case – the employees should
have been allowed to exercise their right to go on strike.

5. A collective labour dispute is a dispute over
different/ opposing interests; the employer is interested in meeting their
targets by using minimal resources, i.e. they want their employees to do as
much as possible and to pay them as little as possible.  The employees, however, have the opposite goal:
they want to get paid as much as possible for the work done.  Thus, in our opinion, a court is not in the
position to assess and ascertain whose interests are more important; the
compromise can be reached by employing the economic levers available to the
parties engaged in labour relations
. For this reason, a court is able to
assess the procedural issues related to the collective labour dispute, but not
its contents.   

6. The Supreme Court held that the Trade Union after the
Conciliation Committee could have find an intermediary in order to resolve the
dispute or apply to an arbitration court. However, the Committee on freedom of
association under the International Labour Organisation (ILO) when dealing with
complaints about alleged violations of freedom of association in different
countries has maintained/ held/ observed that the conciliation process of the
parties to a collective dispute should not take too/ excessively  long, otherwise it will become impossible or
ineffective. Under the current/effective laws, in order to start a strike
the conciliation procedure takes at least 21 days and in the opinion of the ILO
constitutes a violation to strike as the parties may forget over that time why
the dispute started. In this particular case of Svyturys the conciliation
procedure lasted more than two months, but the Court refused to grant
permission to go on strike anyway.

7.   The European Court of Human Rights when commenting on /
interpreting the application of Article 11 of the Convention
for the
Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Freedom of assembly and
association), emphasizing/highlighting the significance/importance of the right
to strike, has maintained on a numerous occasions, that a strike which allows /
enables a trade union to express its attitude is an important aspect for the
protection of trade union members’ interests. Therefore, the possibility to
apply to the European Court of Human Rights over the violations of the right to
freedom of association and the right to go on strike is being explored and
considered at the moment.


The Trade Union of
Lithuanian Food Producers