THE FREE TRADE UNION CONFEDERATION of Latvia (LBAS) has received results from a study they commissioned of the work environment in the country. The EU-funded enquiry found that workplaces that had a trade union showed significant advantages such as fewer violations of labour laws, and less likelihood of working overtime without pay. Fewer employees at unionised companies reported a worsening of working conditions. However there was also bad news for unions in the fact that more young people were either working in an unorganised workplace or unsure of whether one existed or not. Only 19% in the 25–34 age group said they had a union, compared with 35% aged between 55 and 74.
Similarly concerning were the results on taking action against abuses of labour rights. Nearly a half of respondents who said that this had happened to them did nothing to remedy the situation. The reasons given were a belief that the problem was insoluble or that the violation was not serious enough. The shadow economy plays a large part in Latvian working life with 50% of workers surveyed knowing somebody who works without paying tax. While they say the reason for this practice is the high level of taxes and social security payments they are well aware of the pitfalls such as non-payment of wages, lack of health and accident insurance and harder working conditions.