EAKL: Strike of Estonian workers

On 16th June 2009 the Estonian Trade Union Confederation - EAKL - organised a strike in protest against the recent policies and actions of the Government. It was the first time since Estonia became independent that workers from different sectors of the economy participated in a strike. Four of EAKL’s branch unions mobilised their members in 15 companies involving around 1800 workers.

As expected the transport union was represented most strongly (around 700 trade unionists). Also the textile industry federation (more than 600), energy (around 300) and metal workers (100) unions were very active.

In addition to strikes many trade unions organised meetings in their companies to support the demands of EAKL. The Chairman of EAKL, Mr Harri Taliga, emphasised that workers were on strike to protect their rights and not in pursuit of wage increases. The preparations for the strike and the strike itself demonstrated clearly that united workers are a power to be reckoned with. In many companies, after receiving the strike notice, workers’ shifts were changed by the employer in order minimise the impact of the strike. There were also companies where the employers used illegal threats against workers. Such threats were surprising, since EAKL had made it very clear that the strike was not against employers but against the Government.

The main reason for the strike was the unilateral action taken by the Government with regard to the new Employment Contract Act. The trade unions were protesting against the Government cutting back the guarantees of workers which were negotiated and agreed last year.