HKScan Estonia, a subsidiary of the Nordic food group HKScan Oyj, updated its wage system and increased the company's salary fund in the first quarter of 2018, based on which individual wage changes were implemented for striking employees as well.
"We are glad to announce that the Estonian Association of Industrial and Metal Workers Trade Unions (IMTAL) on April 9 informed the employer that both the striking employees as well as IMTAL agree to the salary increase of the slaughter line employees," HKScan Estonia CEO Anne Mere told BNS, noting that the demands of the strike that began on Feb. 6 have thus been met and the strike should be ended immediately.
"As for IMTAL's new proposal to recognize the trade union in the form of a contract, we are addressing this as a separate issue, as the given points of the contract were not the basis of the strike," Mere explained. "As part of a listed company and a large employer, we are always ready for dialogue with various interest groups, following the legislation and good business practices in effect in the Republic of Estonia."
According to Mere, the focus in the company is currently on implementing a wage increase, and the company will continue improving internal working processes and cooperation with its employees.
Strikers from the slaughter line of HKScan's Rakvere Meat Processing Plant decided at a meeting two weeks ago to submit a proposal to the employer to end the strike if the company recognized the trade union. The strikers planned to continue their strike until an agreement was reached.
"The strike will end if the employer agrees to sign a contract for recognizing the trade union, on which future cooperation and substantive collective talks in the name of all workers can be established," the Estonian Trade Union Confederation (EAKL) said in March.
The proposed agreement would recognize the established 115-member trade union department as a representative of employees in the sense of the collective agreement and permit normal communication with all employees of the company.
According to the agreement, the parties would assume the responsibility of starting the process of entering into a collective agreement to solve the problems of all employee groups and declare the lack of legal requirements concerning the strike with respect to each other.
Wage dispute stretched back months
The wage dispute at Rakvere Meat Processing Plant began on Oct. 17, 2017, when 27 slaughterhouse employees staged an illegal strike, resulting in the dismissal of three employees. The employees said they were protesting against poor working conditions as well as the stagnation of wages, which have not been raised for the past ten years.
The workers then referred the dispute to the public conciliator, who was unable to reconcile the two parties.
The slaughter line employees of Rakvere Meat Processing plant demanded a base wage hike of 16 percent as of Feb. 1 and a second 16-percent hike as of July 1. Also demanded in the strike announcement sent to the employer by the unions on Jan. 19 was that the employer not make changes to the way incentive pay is calculated.
According to the unions, this would have meant an increase in the workers' base hourly wage to €4.34 as of Feb. 1 and €5.03 as of July 1. Based on the unions' calculations, this would have increased slaughter line employees' average monthly wages to €1,079 as of Feb. 1 and €1,195 as of July 1.
HKScan Estonia, meanwhile, announced that they had decided to increase the entire company's payroll by five percent in the second quarter.
Employees of the plant began an open-ended strike on Tuesday after a final attempt at talks on Feb. 1 failed.
HKScan Group is a Nordic meat producer which produces and markets pork, beef, poultry, mutton, processed meat as well as ready-made food. While it saw €1.8 billion on revenue, the company posted a loss of €18 million last year. HKScan Group also includes HKScan Estonia, which in turn owns Rakvere Meat Processing Plant and poultry producer Tallegg.
Editor: Aili Vahtla
Source: BNS, ERR