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Labour dispute committees are celebrating 20 years in operation

On September 1, 1996, the Individual Labour Dispute Resolution Act entered into force, prescribing a quicker and easier method for settling labour disputes – by labour dispute committees. Today, the labour dispute committees have been settling the disputes of Estonian employees and employers for 20 years. The labour dispute committees receive 3,000-5,000 applications every year; during the recession, the number of disputes doubled. Employees mainly turn to the labour dispute committee to collect unpaid wages or final settlements. Employers mostly contact the committee to receive compensation from employees for damages caused. The committees are also frequently contacted with issues regarding the lawfulness of termination of employment relationships. According to Maret Maripuu, Director General of the Labour Inspectorate, the labour dispute committees were established with an aim to settle labour disputes as quickly and easily as possible: “While settling of disputes in court takes up to a year or even longer, labour dispute committees must hear cases within one month. It is clear that dragging on of settling of a labour dispute case is damaging for the employee as well as the employer,” she said. Maripuu noted that the working environment and employment relationships have changed over the two decades and the system of settling labour disputes also cannot escape changes. “What the change will be like, would it be reasonable to establish a labour court – this is up to a wider discussion. It is important to preserve an option for a quick, easy and clear solution, which serves the interests of both parties of an employment relationship,” she added. Lecturers, representatives of employees’ and employers’ organisations, practicing lawyers, and officials will be participating in and speaking at the roundtable dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the labour dispute committees. The roundtable will be opened by the Minister of Health and Labour, Jevgeni Ossinovski. The roundtable will take place at Nordic Hotel Forum in Tallinn.