Lithuania inherited the laws regulating labour security, just like all other areas, from the former Russian Empire, however all the legal acts were rather backward-looking and consequently did not suit the changing living conditions in Lithuania. The applied old Russian laws had to be gradually amended, therefore almost all laws regulating this area were later replaced by the ones enacted by the Republic of Lithuania.
The most significant activities related to the enactment of laws on labour security in Lithuania were the establishment and management of employment conditions for agricultural and industrial workers.
The first law on labour security in the area of agriculture was the Law on the Dismissal of Ordinary Employees from Estates as a Result of Reduction of Work enacted by the provisional Government on 5 July, 1919 (Valstybės Žinios, No. 9). Later, the Law saved thousands of workers’ families from the impending starvation and eviction from the apartments they occupied after the estates they had worked in were abandoned and emptied by the occupation authorities. This Law was later extended and amended several times. The statistics collected by labour inspectors suggested that as early as in 1924 the Law had influenced 18,171 workers; other agricultural farms than estates were employing 130,947 workers at that time. After the implementation of the Land Reform and distribution of estates to volunteers, the landless, and those who owned small plots of land, the above Law lost its relevance and was annulled. It was replaced by the Law on Employment of Agricultural Workers enacted on 12 August 1929 (Valstybės Žinios, No. 306). This Law set an equal procedure for management of all issues related to employment of agricultural workers. The Law defined the procedure for concluding an Employment Contract, the provisions for implementation and termination of the contract, and defined the interrelationship between the employer and the employee. 16 April, 1930 saw the enactment of Standard Conditions of Employment Contracts (Valstybės Žinios, No. 324), which were later changed several times. They set the term for concluding the contract, the standards of payment in kind and cash, conditions of payment of salaries, working hours, and holidays.
13 June, 1928 (Valstybės Žinios, No. 278) saw the issue of the rules providing for regular monetary benefits (pensions) to old-age or sick estate workers, widows, and to children. Those public servants who had acquired the right to benefits until 12 August 1929 were paid them from the state budget.
The best protection was implemented in the area of social issues of industrial workers in Lithuania. The former Russian Law on Industrial Labour protected industrial employees better than other labour laws. The Law was in force in Lithuania until 1933, therefore many of its provisions formed the basis for the Law on Employment of Industrial Workers enacted that year.
The Law on the Duration of the Working Day enacted on 17 December, 1919 (Valstybės Žinios, No. 17) was the first Lithuanian law on industrial labour security. Though slightly amended, it was in effect for several decades. The Law set an 8-hour working day to all workshops and factories using hired labour, and a 10-hour working day to commercial companies and shops. The Labour Inspectorate used to supervise the compliance with the Law. In case of violation of the provisions of the Law, the court used to impose a penalty of LTL 1000 or a 4-week arrest.
23 March, 1921 (Valstybės Žinios, No. 61) saw the promulgation of amendments to Industrial Statutes which introduced the so-called compensations to the industrial workers who were made redundant. The slightly amended provisions of the Law were later included into the Law on Employment of Industrial Workers.
17 January, 1925 (Valstybės Žinios, No. 179) saw the promulgation of the Law on Labour Inspectorate setting the aim, objectives and organisational structure of this institution executing labour security laws. A manual on the implementation of this law was issued in the same year (Valstybės Žinios, No. 204) which defined in detail the rights and responsibilities of labour inspectors.
2 February, 1925 (Valstybės Žinios, No. 181) saw the promulgation of the Law on Holidays and Rest. It was later slightly amended. The Law defined the rest mandatory to workers and servants employed in all sectors. Its provisions were co-ordinated with the Convention on the Weekly Rest in Industrial Enterprises ratified in 1931.
10 April, 1926 (Valstybės Žinios, No. 221) saw the promulgation of the Law on Pensions and Benefits to Civil Servants which entitled the civil servants who had served for a defined period of time or had lost their health or working capacity during the service to an appropriate pension paid from the Pensions and Benefits Fund. In the case of death of the servant, his family members would receive part of his pension. In the event civil servants were made redundant without their fault until reaching a pensionable age, such servants were entitled to benefits paid from the Fund for a number of months equalling the number of years of service. The means of the Civil Servants’ Pensions and Benefits Fund were formed of 6 per cent deductions from their actual salaries.
On 19 June, 1931 (Valstybės Žinios, No. 359), Lithuania ratified five international labour conventions: 1) on Women’s Night Work; 2) on Children’s Night Work in Industry; 3) on an 8-hour Working Day and a 48-hour Working Week in Industrial Enterprises; 4) on Weekly Rest in Industrial Enterprises; 5) on Health Insurance of Industrial, Commercial, and Household Workers. These conventions were co-ordinated with the effective laws on labour security. Annual reports on their implementation used to be submitted to the International Labour Bureau.
3 October, 1931 (Valstybės Žinios, No. 366) saw the promulgation of the Law on Night Work at Bakeries, whereby night work from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. was prohibited in these enterprises. In case of violation of the prohibition, the perpetrators were liable to an administrative penalty up to LTL 500 or a 2-week arrest.
The Law on Employment of Industrial Workers enacted on 11 November, 1933 (Valstybės Žinios, No. 429) and amendments and supplements to some of the provisions of the Law enacted on 27 September, 1934 (Valstybės Žinios, No. 457) formed the main law regulating labour security in the area of industry. This Law was applied in all factories and crafts enterprises, transport and communications as well as shipping enterprises, cinema mechanics departments. The provisions on the standard workers’ salaries were applied to construction enterprises as well. The statistics collected by labour inspectors suggests that in 1937 the Law was applied in 2653 industrial enterprises (excluding seasonal construction work sites) employing 22759 workers.
The Labour Inspectorate used to supervise compliance with the Law. Every enterprise had to have a manager in charge of the order and the compliance with the provisions of the Law in the enterprise, as well as the set Rules of Internal Order and monetary penalties to workers for the violation of the Rules. Workers’ health and life at work was protected by the rules supplementing the Law. They defined in detail technical and sanitary protection measures in enterprises of all types. Employment contracts used to be concluded only in writing by issuing a book of the set format to a worker. The term of validity of the concluded contracts used to be unrestricted, and only seasonal enterprises were entitled to employing people for a definite period of time. Workers’ salaries, taking into consideration the existing minimum standard of living, were set by labour inspectors and a certain Commission consisting of 3 people: a representative from the authorities and one representative from each of the parties. The decisions of the Commission used to be binding after the approval of the Minister of Internal Affairs. Workers were entitled to annual 12-day paid holidays. The Law set working conditions for women and young people, conforming to the ratified international conventions. Separate rules supplementing the Law were issued to determine the employment conditions for workers-apprentices. The rules allowed labour inspectors to issue licences only to the enterprises ensuring proper labour, learning, conditions and payment of salaries. The Law defined in detail employer–employee interrelationship and the conditions for fulfilment and termination of employment contracts. In the event a worker is made redundant for no fault of his or the concluded contract is terminated without legal ground, the enterprise would pay to him the so-called severance pay. Taking into consideration the term of service at the enterprise, the severance pay would amount to the actual salary of the worker for 1 to 14 weeks of work. In order to ensure the payment of compensations to redundant workers of impoverished enterprises, all enterprises had to pay a small tax for every employee to the Fund established for this purpose. In the event of violation of the provisions of the Law, managers of the enterprises were liable to an administrative penalty up to LTL 500.
On 23 June, 1934 (Valstybės Žinios, No. 447), supplements were made to the provisions of the Civil Procedure Code, which provided that in case of failure to pay a salary or compensation to a worker by good will, the court, under a written approval of a labour inspector, could award its payment by means of an Order.
The Law on Public Works Fund was enacted on 22 December, 1933 (Valstybės Žinios, No. 431) for the purposes of reducing unemployment. The means of the Fund consisted of the contributions of employers, contractors, the State, and municipalities. They were used for the purpose of organising public works to the unemployed in the municipalities of cities and counties. In 1938, the Government approved a Public Works Plan. 6000 unemployed were provided with work for an estimate amounting to LTL 3,766,000. The Law on Labour Exchanges was enacted in 1919 for the same purpose – reducing unemployment, which provided for the establishment of labour exchanges under municipalities with the Central Labour Exchange under the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. The established labour exchanges were gradually closed down. They later operated only in the municipalities of Kaunas and Šiauliai.
The Law on the Labour Chamber enacted on 24 October, 1935 (Valstybės Žinios, No. 505), established a Permanent Workers’ Representative Office. As provided in the Law, its aim was to “manage cultural, economic, and social affairs of workers and servants employed in industry, trade, construction, transport, and other areas”. The Law entitled the Labour Chamber to voicing their opinion and proposing draft laws on persons employed in cultural, social, and economic areas. The funds of the Chamber were formed from certain taxes collected from the insured in patients’ funds, from employers’ taxes, and benefits from the state treasury. In 1937, the estimate of the Chamber amounted to LTL 804,200, and the estimate approved for 1938 provided for LTL 881,500 of revenue. In 1936, the Ministry of Internal Affairs set the election procedure (Valstybės Žinios, No. 526). After the election of the members of the Chamber, formation of the management and organisation of the structure of the Chamber, much positive practical work was carried out during two years, especially in the area of culture and education. In cities and in the places with a greater number of workers, the Chamber maintained more than ten so-called cultural clubs (houses of the public) with reading rooms, libraries, and legal advice offices; choirs, orchestras, groups of stage lovers were formed in many clubs which sometimes organised concerts, performances, and other forms of entertainment; sports teams were formed in clubs and bigger enterprises, which consequently formed a Workers’ Sports Union. The National University of the Chamber was established for educational purposes; secondary and vocational education evening classes for adults wee organised in bigger cities; several separate publications were issued, and the newspaper Darbas (the Labour) was published regularly with the target audience being workers. As far as economic issues are concerned, the Chamber provided various privileges to workers, thus performing the function of an intermediary and safeguarding workers’ daily interests. In the area of labour legislation, the Chamber drafted several amendments and supplements to effective laws relevant to employees, many of which later turned into laws.
Apart from the mentioned laws on labour security enacted during over twenty years of existence of the State, a number of smaller amendments and supplements to these laws were also promulgated, including legal acts, various rules, and instructions clarifying and supplementing the laws and their individual provisions.