600 workers, almost half of the 1,300 workers at the Lithuanian nitrogen fertilisers and industrial chemicals factory, AB Achema, entered an open-ended strike on 8 February.
The strike was the result of the unanimous decision of the Achema Workers' Trade Union Council. The union is demanding that the employer signs a collective agreement for a two-year period, with key provisions to review wages at least once per calendar year, to establish a procedure for one-time incentives for the achieved annual work results, to legalise overtime when working beyond the permitted annual duration, and to coordinate annual work schedules with the trade union.
This is the first strike in the Lithuanian private sector in the past 30 years. If the workers’ strike action is successful, this will send a signal to other workers in the private sector, that the workers’ voice counts.
Recent changes in the Lithuanian labour law have made it easy for employers to end negotiations with trade unions, thus practically denying trade unions their right to bargain. In the case of AB Achema, the employer is ignoring the union, and only promising to review the remuneration system and to raise wages: promises that have not been fulfilled for several years.
Following the announcement of this strike, the employer has attempted to obstruct workers from going on strike and the union from organising the strike, by issuing last-minute orders. Furthermore, the employer offered double remuneration to strike-breakers. This behaviour has put immense pressure on the union members and the workers.
AB Achema is clearly in breach of its own code of conduct, which states that “all employees must be treated fairly and with respect…, have the right to participate in trade unions…, and must not be penalised for participating in the afore-mentioned organisation“.
The AB Achema company has been operating profitably for the past years. It is an important player on the agricultural and chemical market, both globally and in Europe. The company has also received enormous amounts of taxpayers’ money through the allocation of European Union funds.
Dalia Jakutavičė, President of the Lituanian Industry Trade Union Federation said:
“The striking workers have taken a bold step: they expect a long-term result through a solid collective agreement with the employer, thus ensuring a safer future, not only for themselves, but for all workers of the company.”
Luc Triangle, General Secretary of industriAll Europe:
“We stand in solidarity with the workers and their trade union, and urge AB Achema to immediately return to the negotiations with the Achema Workers’ Trade Union in order to reach a satisfactory agreement. Weak national labour laws may not be used to undermine collective labour rights in Europe.”
Workers of AB Achema and their families are losing income, as they will not be paid during the strike. The Lithuanian Industry Trade Union Federation has therefore set up a Strike Fund to compensate the lost wages of striking workers. Donations to the cause of the AB Achema workers can be sent to the following account of the Achema Workers' Trade Union:
A / s LT477300010002514614.
BIC (SWIFT code): HABALT 22
Please refer to the ‚Strike Fund‘ in the bank communication.
Contact: Andrea Husen-Bradley (press and communication)