The Right to Collective Action in Labour Relations in Estonia: Is the Right to Organise a Strike Guaranteed?

Author:Gaabriel Tavits
Gaabriel Tavits
Docent of Labour and Social Security Law
University of Tartu
The Right to Collective Action
in Labour Relations in Estonia:
Is the Right to Organise a Strike
1. Introduction
The right to strike is an integral part of contemporary labour law. This right has been recognised as an
important human right and also been considered to be an integral element tied in with the procedure
required for concluding a collective agreement.*1 In the modern information society, however, one might
ask whether such an option is necessary or even feasible.
Collective actions in labour relations have suffered their rst setback in the European Union with the
Laval case, through which the European Court of Justice (ECJ) accorded the freedom of the free movement
of services higher priority than the right to organise collective actions in labour relations, both established
also by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
In the negotiations in Estonia between shipping company AS Tallink and the Seafarers Union, the pub-
lic conciliator stated that the strike is an outdated tool for settling labour relations and that it hinders
normal economic development.*2
Concurrently, changes in the workplace and work performance as a whole have to be taken into con-
sideration. As workplaces are going to change rather than disappear and it is not always possible to replace
everything with electronic means, the changes in workplaces have to be considered*3 in connection with
the phenomenon of collective measures, which were originally intended for the context of the Industrial
Revolution, and may not function in the contemporary work environment.
Draft legislation on collective agreements and collective labour disputes now being prepared in Estonia
foresees certain regulations for the organisation of collective action, including strikes, support strikes, and
1 Although it was possible to carry out negotiations before concluding a collective agreement in Soviet times, those negotia-
tions were not considered democratic, since no strikes or lock-outs could be organised.
2 H. Pärn. Streik on iganenud manufaktuuriaegne nähtus [‘Strike is an old-fashioned method’]. – Päevaleht: Ärileht,
20 January 2014. Available at
aegne-nahtus.d?id=67640624 (most recently accessed on 18.5.2014) (in Estonian).
3 J.C. Meister, K. Willyred. 2020. aasta töökoht. HarperCollins 2010 (translation into Estonian of The 2020 Workplace by
Publication Hermes 2010).

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