Union and management representatives are to meet with the public conciliator (Riiklik lepitaja) on Friday, in an effort to break a deadlock over wages at shipping line Tallink, part of which dates back to a wage freeze set at the peak of the pandemic, when most passenger ferries were not running.
Chair of the Estonian Seamen's Independent Union (EMSA) Jüri Lember told ERR Thursday that Tallink had not submitted any new proposals in response to a strike held on January 16.
Lember said: "At eleven o'clock tomorrow (Friday, January 27-ed.) we are to meet with the public conciliator, to hear what they may have come up with and what proposals they may present in an effort to bring reconciliation."
EMSA is asking for an average wage rise of 17.5 percent for service personnel, and 22.5 percent for technical personnel, Lember said.
"We are trying to explain to all concerned that this in fact a constitutes a wage rise from two years ago. In 2021, we agreed to skip that wage increase based on the employer's arguments that the ships were lying idle in dock, and it was not known at the time how difficult the economic environment would turn out to be. This year's wage rise has now been added to that sum," Lember went on.
"The figure offered by the employer must be viewed in the context of two years of wage increases, as salaries in the labor market as a whole did not stand still. In 2021, salaries in Estonia increased by 6.8 percent, while last year they rose by nearly ten percent," he added.
Lember said no new offer had come from Tallink, following the strike on Monday, January 16, which delayed the departure of the Tallink cruise vessel the MS Baltic Queen, adding that his organization had been looking for constructive dialogue since late September, when the current negotiations began.
Tallink board chair Paavo Nõgene said that the company, too, hopes for a solution to suit all.
"Tallink has presented the public conciliator with the company's wage change history in relation to inflation over the last ten years, the comparison of wages with average working families in Estonia and our near-term prospects," Nõgene said via a press release.
"It will be clarified at tomorrow's meeting how the public conciliator wants to move forward with the process, and before that we do not think it is right to make further comments. We respect the work of the public conciliator and wish him peace of mind."
Lember said that the figures, provided to EMSA, of a seven percent wage rise to service personnel and a 10 percent one to technical personnel, must also be seen in the light of wage rates on the labor market and the fact that inflation has affected all areas, including energy and fuel, which both affects workers and means that Tallink can't obtain labor at a below-market level.
The public conciliator is Meelis Virkebau.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots