Who is a trustee?
In Estonia, trade unions have only a few members for various reasons. Therefore, employees may elect a representative of all employees, i.e. an employees’ trustee, to communicate with the employer at the general meeting of employees, even without a representative organisation of employees. The employees’ trustee represents employees in matters of occupational health, safety, and employment relationships. The trustee’s duties, rights and responsibilities are much broader than, for example, a working environment representative’s. Candidates for trustee may be presented by all employees and the trade union operating at the employer, but not by the employer’s representatives. The general meeting shall immediately notify the employer in writing or in a format which can be reproduced in writing of the election of the trustee and the term of his or her right to represent the employees jointly.
The main task of a trustee is to act as a so-called intermediary between the employer and the employees. He or she shall communicate the opinion of all employees to the employer and the employer can pass on information to him or her that must reach all employees. On the other hand, the trustee shall have the most up-to-date information on the employer’s plans and actions. He or she shall also know the employees’ views and opinions of the employer’s proposed activities. A trustee has the right to freely examine the working conditions, including the work organisation; receive from the employer the information necessary for the performance of his or her duties and consult the employer on the basis of such information; He or she may also hold negotiations with the employer for entering into a collective agreement if there is no trade union at the employer or no employees belonging to the trade union are employed with the employer.
A trustee is an employee of an employer who is elected by the general meeting of the employees of the employer as their representative in the performance of the duties arising from the law in relations with the employer. A trustee and an employer shall co-operate in the spirit of mutual trust and in good faith, taking into account the rights, obligations and interests of the employees and the employer.
Election of a trustee
The procedure for electing an employees’ trustee is regulated by the Employees’ Trustee Act. Unlike the election of a working environment representative, the election of an employees’ trustee cannot take place at the initiative of the employer; it shall be the will of the employees.
Pursuant to the Employee’s Trustee Act, the general meeting to elect an employees’ trustee may be called by a trade union operating at the employer or the majority of the members of a trade union who are employed with the employer if the trade union has not been founded at the employer. The meeting may also be called by at least 10% of the employees of the employer.
The person who calls the general meeting shall notify the employees of the reason and the time of the meeting at least two weeks in advance.
The general meeting can elect an employee’s trustee, i.e. it has a quorum if at least half of the employees of the employer participate in the meeting.
The employer may not present candidates for the trustee. The purpose and idea of the election is that it is a representative of the employees. Candidates for trustee may be presented by all employees and the trade union operating at the employer.
Rights of trustee
A trustee has the right to:
- freely examine the working conditions, including the work organisation;
- receive from the employer the information necessary for the performance of his or her duties and consult the employer on the basis of such information;
- hold negotiations with the employer for entering into a collective agreement under the conditions and pursuant to the procedure provided for in the Collective Agreements Act if there is no trade union at the employer or no employees belonging to the trade union are employed with the employer;
- represent employees in the resolution of a collective labour dispute under the conditions and pursuant to the procedure provided for in the Collective Labour Dispute Resolution Act if there is no trade union at the employer or no employees belonging to the trade union are employed with the employer;
- to notify the interested trade union and federation or confederation of employers and trade unions of a violation of working conditions by the employer;
- have recourse to a labour dispute resolution body for the resolution of a dispute arising from the confidentiality of the information obtained or refusal to provide information;
- receive training for the performance of his or her duties;
- involve experts in the performance of his or her duties;
- upon agreement with the employer, use the premises and other resources of the employer necessary for the performance of the duties of a trustee.
Responsibilities of the trustee
A trustee is required to:
- participate in informing and consulting;
- communicate information to the employer and to employees;
- monitor compliance with working conditions and notify the employer and, if necessary, the labour inspector of the place of business of the employer, of a violation;
- at the request of an employee, represent the employee in a labour dispute with the employer before having recourse to a labour dispute resolution body;
- co-operate in the avoidance of disruption of work if a collective agreement has been entered into by a trustee under the conditions and pursuant to the procedure provided for in the Collective Agreements Act;
- co-operate with a trade union representative, the working environment representative and working environment council.