News2020.03.26 15:00

Lithuanian employers call for 12-hour workday and fewer regulations

Lithuanian employers have asked the government to temporarily suspend some labour regulations, including the 40-hour working week, due to the quarantine-induced economic crisis.

Lithuanian Confederation of Employers have asked the government to temporarily suspend some labour regulations, including the 40-hour working week.

Other proposals include extending the working day to 12 hours, shortening termination notice period to two weeks and cutting severance pay.

The draft document, submitted to the government on Tuesday, also calls for allowing employers to unilaterally change job responsibilities and loosening the rules for fixed-term employment contracts. The new rules would be in place for six months, according to the proposal.

Danas Arlauskas, the president of the Lithuanian Confederation of Employers, says the measures are needed to mitigate the shock of the coronavirus quarantine to businesses.

“If we want to keep jobs in the future and prevent businesses from taking such a hit that would make us lose a lot of jobs, [...] we believe that we must take certain measures,” Arlauskas says.

He insists that the situation warrants such measures and that even the European Union is suspending some of its fundamental rights.

“If the situation poses a threat to the interests of the majority, these rights get circumscribed: [EU countries] introduced border controls, restricted movement of people,” Arlauskas said.

Lithuania's central bank said last week that Lithuania's economy might contract 2.8 percent this year due to the quarantine measures. The government has pledged to subsidise up to 90 percent of payroll costs for worst affected businesses and unveiled a 2-billion-euro financial support package.

Commenting on the measures proposed by the employer association, a trade union representative says they are unnecessary and too wide. Changing the Labour Code, albeit temporarily, for the entire country makes no sense, according to Inga Ruginienė, the president of the Lithuanian Confederation of Trade Unions.

“Some [businesses] have one kind of problems, others have completely different problems,“ she says. “There's a group of businesses that are indeed hard-pressed, have no turnover, were forced to close. But if you change the Labour Code, you change it in absolutely the same way for everyone.”

She insists that pressures on the affected businesses could be relieved through sectoral collective agreements, without the need to make sweeping changes for all workers. “We see no serious, objective reason for this one-size-fits-all measure,” Ruginienė insists.

According to her, employers, employees and the government should share the burden in equal measures.

“In our view, [the employers' proposal] is absolutely socially irresponsible, even indecent,” she says. “The state has already taken on some of the responsibility, workers have as well, so should employers.”

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