Carlsberg's attacks on trade union rights supported by Lithuanian court decision to declare beer an 'essential service' !
Brewery transnational Carlsberg is attacking trade union rights in Lithuania with the support of the country's legal system, which has declared beer production an "essential service".
On June 10 last year members of the IUF-affiliated Lithuanian Trade Union of Food Producers (LPMS) voted in favour of strike action at the Carlsberg brewery in Lithuania in support of their demand for a decent company-level collective agreement.
Management sought to stop the strike and applied to the court with a petition to declare the strike ballot procedure invalid and the strike illegal, and demanded compensation for litigation costs. The company not only tried to stop the strike and declare it illegal but also argued that no strike action was possible until the "high season" had passed.
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The Klaipeda district court on June 20 suspended the start of the planned strike for 30 days based on a dubious determination that the production of beer was recognized as 'vitally essential' in Lithuania.
On the July 5, 2011 the Klaipeda city district court ruled that the strike was legal. Carlsberg Lithuania management appealed this decision. On August 5, 2011 the Klaipeda regional court annulled the decision of the lower court, ruling that the brewery strike announced in June was illegal.
The court decision to rule the strike illegal is based on the following astonishing grounds: "The collective agreement is in compliance with the Labour Code because the wages of Carlsberg employees are above the market level, jobs are maintained and wages are not reduced." With this absurd ruling, the court is attempting to legitimize Carlsberg's attempt to freeze wages for 3 years by declaring a legitimate strike unlawful.
The union has appealed the regional court decision to a higher court, where it is still under appeal, and submitted a complaint to the ILO which the IUF has formally supported and which will now be examined by the Committee on Freedom of Association.
The brewery sector is unlikely to be considered an essential service by the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association! We therefore expect the ILO to condemn a court decision to suspend a strike for an unreasonable period as denying the right to strike in contravention of international labour standards
Carlsberg Lithuania management has stepped up its anti-union aggression by pressuring union leaders and activists at the plant through disciplinary action. Furthermore the company initiated a police enquiry against workers who joined the picket line to protest the suspension of the strike. Since then, 9 workers who were active in protest actions have been dismissed on the grounds of 'lost production'. These 9 dismissed workers are now reengaged, but on temporary contracts, punishing them for their union activities in the plant.
Carlsberg's healthy 2011 profits have produced global job cuts and attacks on trade union rights in Lithuania. You can support the Lithuanian beer workers' struggle by sending a message to Carlsberg, the 4th largest global brewery, and the government of Lithuania calling on the company and government to stop violating fundamental trade union rights in Lithuania. Use the form below to insist they act to ensure that rights are respected.