Thesis supervisor: prof. Merle Erikson
Opponents: Associate Professor Daiva Petrylaitė (University of Vilnius) and Associate Professor Gaabriel Tavits, University of Tartu
The study focuses on determining the role of collective agreements (hereinafter: CAs) in Estonia and other EU countries. It also takes a look at whether and what kinds of additions need to be made to Estonian legislation in order to increase the security of employment relations, while ensuring the flexibility of regulation. To find an answer to the issue studied, the author concentrated on the need to develop CAs, since only 32.7% of employees are covered by CAs in Estonia. The analysis showed that the role of Estonian CAs differs from role that they play in some of the new EU countries, used as a comparison in this paper, and in countries that have a more advanced social dialogue. Namely, the role of Estonian CAs is to establish of additional social guarantees for employees that complement the law. Ensuring flexibility with CAs is generally uncommon in Estonia.
The author’s view is that the role of the collective agreement in modern employment relationships has to include, in addition to increasing security, ensuring the flexibility of employment relationships. This is expressed particularly by the changed relationship between the collective agreement and the legislation: spelling out and defining the broadly formulated principles in the legislation in accordance with the specific enabling provision, or regulating working conditions differently from the legislation, also to the disadvantage of employees. Furthermore, this comes through in issues agreed under a collective agreement, also in the agreement of issues related to the economy and employment previously within the jurisdiction of the management. Atypical workers should be able to conclude collective agreements. The legal regulation of an agreement should allow and support the realisation of the above role of the collective agreement.
The author finds that in order to increase the security of employment relations, while ensuring the flexibility of regulation, we would need to more boldly utilise a combination of CAs and the law. By directing discretion in a more defined manner from a single employee to the level of employees, especially in more complex issues, a better balance could be achieved between security and flexibility. The regulation of the concept of an agreement, application, and validity should also be modernised. The issue of representativeness of parties needs solving, important is to clarify representativeness criteria for the conclusion and application of those agreements applied to all the employees at a company that include derogations. It would be essential to increase the sectoral level role in the Estonian decentralised system of CAs. Countries, that have directed their course on decentralisation, can consider the different aspects of decentralisation that have been analysed in the study when amending their CA regulations.