Chairman of the Estonian Trade Union Confederation (EAKL) Peep Peterson said that pharmacy chains' attempt on Wednesday to exert pressure disregarded all the rules of procedure that employees must follow when striking in Estonia and the restrictions imposed on striking have become absurd.
"If oligarchs can afford to do anything without punishment, we have more than enough of a right to demand the lifting of all restrictions on striking," Peterson said in a press release.
The head of EAKL said the past week has brought two instances of interruption of work, one of which was castrated by the law in effect with regard to striking and another that was based on absolutely no laws.
"Teachers in Lüganuse, who sought to confront the acute maladministration of the rural municipality government, had to submit written professional demands, give the opportunity for negotiation, then issue a written strike notice, send it to three addresses and verify that it has been received. They then had to wait three full days and only then, on the basis of all the aforementioned, did they get the right to strike for one hour, which of course does not affect the rural municipality government," Peterson said.
Political strikes are forbidden in Estonia, it is stressed by the Supreme Court in a 2014 ruling dealing with the participation of railway workers in a 2012 strike of EAKL against the amendment of labor laws. At the time, the Railway Workers' Trade Union was saved from a major claim by a state-owned company by the fact that they also supported a legal salary claim of teachers with the same strike.
Peterson said the will of pharmacy chains has turned into an absurd years of debates with the government and employers, where Estonian trade unions have demanded freedom to strike based on the minimum standards of the International Labor Organization, but have only received new restrictions in return.
"Aside from France and Germany, where the constitution prohibits parliament from restricting the right to strike, let us look at Finland," the head of EAKL said. "In Finland, even members of the defense forces can be trade union members and sign collective agreements, police officers and rescuers can support demands by way of strike. Here, we are fighting step by step on whether rescuers are allowed to enter into multiannual salary agreements with the employer, while the Riigikogu may annul all labor and pension laws without the opportunity to strike for even a minute," he added.
The collective rights of workers and a reduction in strike restrictions are included in the government's work program and should be debated by the Cabinet in April. Peterson said this week's events will encourage trade unions to submit a larger-than-planned application that would bring the rights of Estonian workers at least to the Nordic level.
A bill of amendments to the Medicinal Products Act initiated by the Riigikogu's social affairs committee which calls for the cancellation of the pharmacy reform intended to take effect from April 2020 in its current form and reopening of discussion on the subject was withdrawn from legislative proceeding on Tuesday.
Apotheka, Benu, Euroapteek and Sudameapteek, or pharmacy chains that are members of the Estonian Pharmacies Association (EPA), closed their doors at 2 p.m. on Wednesday to draw attention to the negative impacts of the pharmacy reform.
Editor: Helen Wright