Public sector labour relations differ from those in the private sector, which suggests that there are differences in the functioning at labour relations as well. The aim to this study is to analyse the current situation and practices in labour relations in institutions of state and local governments. Interviews with various partners of social dialogue were conducted for this.

The study focuses on five topics:

  • the involvement on employees,
  • collective bargaining and agreements,
  • collective labour disputes, their settlement and national reconciliation,
  • labour peace and strike,
  • unions.

The study found that the involvement of workers in the public sector institutions are generally considered important, but the importance of implementation varies across institutions. Thereby is preferred in most cases that the involvement would be regulated by a general framework and more detailed issues remain within the competence of the institutions.

To improve the functioning of the information and consultation it is recommended to raise awareness of the need of involvement for both workers and employers and to regulate the regulation between institutions as well.

The interest in collective bargaining in the Estonian public sector is low, but still somewhat higher than in the private sector. The reasons for this are ignorance of collective agreements, the specific nature of budgets and the dual roles of the heads of the institutions as employers and employees. The extension of the collective agreement to the heads of the institutions is also ambiguous.

Labour disputes occur in public sector as a conflict of law or interest. In the first case it is possible to apply to the labour dispute committee or to a court, in other cast to the national conciliator. The labour dispute committee is preferred to the court and contacting the national conciliator is normally takes as a last resort. With regard to the labour peace, the main issue here is the ban of strike in the public service. Instead the strike action could be legalised, restricting the circle of officials who have the opportunity.

It is also important that organising strikes is not a common phenomenon in Estonia and therefore the right to strike in public sector would not mean an immediate increase in the number of strikes.“

The unions are not very widespread in Estonian public sector, although there are very different practices in various institutions. Thereby, the trend of unionisation is declining. Generally the employers of the public sector do not prevent union action and workers’ rights in relation to unionisation is not impaired. Rather is joining unions prevented by the lack of visible additional benefits.

See also

Civil Service Act