Collective bargaining coverage in Estonia is around 33% while trade union density is about 10% although higher in some areas of the public services, such as energy and water where it is about 40%.
Collective bargaining system
Certain trade union rights are guaranteed in the constitution although there is no specific reference to collective bargaining. Legislation plays a role in regulating collective bargaining through the Collective Agreements Act, Collective Labour Disputes Resolution Act and Trade Union Act.
Collective agreements can be negotiated at all levels but company-level bargaining is the most common. There is a small number of sectoral agreements.
There are tripartite negotiations between the government, employers’ organisation and trade unions and consultation through the National Economic and Social Council. These tripartite negotiations have led to a number of accords on issues such as the national minimum wage, unemployment benefit and the level of tax-free income. However, the minimum wage is now the result of bi-partite negotiations between the social partners.
Legal regulation of pay and working conditions
Working hours and holiday entitlement are regulated through legislation with little deviation from this in collective agreements. Although the national minimum wage is negotiated by the national social partners it is implemented by government decree. The EAKL union confederation negotiates a minimum wage for the private sector with the ETTK employers’ organisation while the TALO trade union federation negotiates with the government to set a minimum rate for employees in the public sector for teachers, culture workers and university employees.
In common with other countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union or its sphere of influence in Central and Eastern Europe, trade union membership in Estonia declined drastically from the early 1990s. There are three trade union confederations – EAKL, the Confederation of Estonian Trade Unions, is the biggest representing mainly blue-collar workers, followed by TALO, the Employees Unions’ Confederation and then the much smaller ETMAKL, the Confederation of Food Producers and Rural Workers.