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2021.09.28 16:46

Vilnius public transport drivers threaten morning strikes over pay, working conditions

LRT.lt, BNS2021.09.28 16:46

Vilnius public transport workers are planning a warning strike after negotiations over working conditions and pay rise failed last week.

Vilnius Public Transport Trade Union said drivers would strike for two hours between 05:30 and 07:30 on October 21 and 22.

“I think, we'll have warning strikes on October 21–22 and if there is no agreement within a week, there will be a real indefinite strike from October 28,” the union's president Algirdas Markevičius told BNS.

According to him, the warning strikes will happen in early hours so as to spare public transport users inconvenience during rush hours. Moreover, about a third of bus and trolleybus drivers will work even during the strike. Lithuanian courts have previously ruled that public transport is an essential service and must be provided even during strikes.

Members of the trade union will hold the vote on whether to strike on October 13–15. The strike needs to be supported by at least a fourth of all votes in order to go ahead.

The public transport union has accused Vilnius Municipality of trying to break a collective agreement signed in 2018.

“We noticed this year that the [public transport] company is doing everything to have the remuneration system removed from the collective agreement. Our trade union maintains that remuneration is an inseparable part of the collective agreement,” Markevičius previously told LRT.lt.

Moreover, public transport workers demand a 10-percent pay raise and improvement in working conditions. According to Markevičius, drivers are forced to work 9-hour shifts six days in a row and don't even have lunch breaks.

Drivers also complain that schedules are made so tight that they are forced to speed in order to keep up. If they run behind the schedule, drivers are forced to pay 50-euro fines.

Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius has previously dismissed public transport workers' demands, saying they are paid well and on time, despite the public transport company losing income during the pandemic. He has also said that the city has been renewing its bus and trolleybus stock and the drivers' working conditions are good.

He has accused trade unions of organising “political action”, because union leaders are members of “oppositional political parties”. Moreover, Šimašius has said that unions oppose the city's plans to introduce remuneration policies rewarding good performance.

Vilnius Public Transport employs around 1,900 people, 1,400 of them are unionised.

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