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Estonia Backs Collective-Agreement Changes After Union Protests

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March 14 (Bloomberg) -- Estonia approved legal changes to make it easier for employers to terminate collective agreements even after trade unions objected.

Lawmakers voted 53-40 to back amendments stopping such agreements from running indefinitely, which the Justice Chancellor has ruled unconstitutional. Unions had sought to keep the main terms of contracts that had been terminated valid for a transition period, Harri Taliga, chairman of the Confederation of Estonian Trade Unions, said last month in an interview.

“The unions’ protest against the changes is natural because employers will gain a significant advantage for future negotiations: the option to threaten the unilateral annulment of earlier-agreed conditions,” Eiki Nestor, a lawmaker with the opposition Social Democrats, said before the vote. “When workers’ rights are curbed, strikes will result.”

Estonia endured its biggest industrial action since regaining independence in 1991 last week, when blue-collar workers supported a three-day nationwide strike by teachers over wages. More than 1,000 workers staged a rally in the center of the capital, Tallinn, on Feb. 18 to protest the collective-agreement amendments.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ott Ummelas in Tallinn at oummelas@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net