What is a trade union?
A trade union is an independent and voluntary association of persons which is founded on the initiative of the persons and the objective of which is to represent and protect the employment, service-related, professional, economic and social rights and interests of employees.
Trade unions achieve their objectives by acting as social dialogue partners to employers, associations of employers, local governments and the Government of the Republic in mutual informing, consulting, and collective negotiations and in issues involving the interests of employees.
In their legal activities, trade unions are independent of employers, their associations and their representatives, state authorities and local governments and other organisations.
Establishment of a trade union
- A trade union can be formed by at least five employees.
- A federation of trade unions may be founded by at least five trade unions.
- A central federation of trade unions may be founded by at least five national trade unions or federations of trade unions of an area of activity or profession.
The foundation of a trade union shall be executed by a memorandum of association which in addition to the requirements provided for in the Non-profit Associations Act shall set out:
- the time and place of the meeting, voting results and the adopted resolution;
- the names and residences of members of the management board, and also the personal identification codes or registry codes of the founders.
The articles of association shall be approved by the memorandum of association. The memorandum of association and articles of association shall be signed by the chair and the secretary of the meeting. The list of participants in the foundation meeting with the signature of each participant shall be an integral part of the memorandum of association. If the founders are trade unions, the resolutions of founder bodies on foundation and the copies of the registry card shall be appended to the memorandum of association.
The passive legal capacity of a trade union commences as of the entry of the trade union into the register of trade unions and terminates as of the deletion from the register.
Individuals have the right to form, join or not to form trade unions without prior permission. Only active servicemen are prohibited from forming or joining a trade union. Freedom of association is also protected by the Constitution (section 48 of the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia).
An employee has the right to be a member of a trade union of his or her workplace or another trade union. An employee has the right to act as an elected member of a trade union.
The rights of an employee and a person seeking employment shall not be restricted on the grounds of their membership in a trade union or absence thereof, of being elected a representative of a trade union, or of other legal activities related to trade unions. Unequal treatment shall not be deemed to be grant of privileges due to membership in a trade union or representation of employees.
Obligations of employer
An employer is required to:
- grant a workroom for a trade union, if possible;
- grant premises for holding trade union events at least once a month and permit members of the trade union of a company, agency or other organisation and also other persons invited by trade unions to participate in these events. An employer shall be notified in advance of the participation of persons who are invited outside of the company, agency or other organisation by the trade union;
- allow a member of a trade union at least five days free from work in order for him or her to participate in training organised by the trade union or in the work of trade union bodies on the basis of written invitations submitted by the trade union, provided it does not bring about significant impediments to the economic activities of the employer. On the days free from work granted pursuant to this clause, the employee shall continue to receive his or her average wages for two days a year;
- at the request of an elected representative of a trade union, commence negotiations for entry into or amendment of a collective agreement and other contract pertaining to employment, service or social affairs;
- permit representatives elected by a trade union to examine without hindrance the work organisation and the working conditions in the company, agency or other organisation where members of the trade union are employed. To permit an elected representative to submit opinions and proposals in issues concerning representation of employees;
- perform other duties arising from law or a collective agreement with regard to trade unions