A Practical Guide for Employees with Wage Delays

Let us consider a specific example of a typical mistake of conscientious, but not inclined to defend their interests, workers. WFL this story was told by Yuri – a worker of one of the Latvian enterprises. 1

The essence of the conflict

A small private company “Steel Master” ltd., whose only board member was Kristaps Puisitis, regularly delayed the salaries of its employees. The debt grew. Employees who tried to demand repayment of debt were suspended from work, but they were not fired, and they still did not pay the wages withheld for several months.

Employee actions

Appeals to the labor inspectorate did not give any result. After thinking, the workers of the enterprise quit by mutual agreement of the parties, they were given a promise to pay off the wage arrears in September 2019. The workers quit, but the promise was not kept. And in March 2020, an administrative insolvency proceedings were initiated against the company. “Naturally, we are no longer talking about any payment of wage arrears. The owner simply stopped talking about this,” Yuri said, “although he continues his entrepreneurial activity, now fictitiously hiring workers in the status of self-employed.”

What mistakes do we see employees?

Mistake #1. Faith to the owner of the company at his word.

This is one of the most common mistakes of hired employees.

The goal of capitalist production is profit. If this profit can be obtained by deceiving the worker, the capitalist will not miss this opportunity. Therefore, so as not to fall for the bait, the worker must always assume that the capitalist is lying.

Mistake #2. Dismissal of their own free will or by agreement of the parties.

This step worsens the position of the employee, gives a “trump card” in the hands of the master swindler. This is not to be done in any way. In the extreme case, in the terms of the agreement between the parties, the employee has to write down the amount of money that the employer is obliged to pay to the employee and in what terms, as well as determine the penalties in case of delay in payment.

Mistake #3. Excessive trust of labor inspection.

It is necessary to address it, but it is not limited to this address in any way. The Labor Inspectorate is one of the departments of the bourgeois state apparatus. Accordingly, its purpose is to serve the interests of the bourgeoisie, and not to help hired workers. Therefore, it will sympathize not with the worker, but with his owner. Even if obvious violations are found, the inspection will try to come to an agreement with the administration of the enterprise, meet it halfway, trust its assurances and promises, give delays, and condone the delay of the case.

What would be the right action?

1. Submit an application to the court. Latvian law stipulates that if the amount of wage arrears does not exceed 3500 euros, the trial takes place in an expedited, written procedure, even without summoning the parties to court. If the employee has all the documents, the decision to collect wages from the owner in favor of the employee is guaranteed. The court decision is passed on to the bailiffs – and then the owner will not get out of it. When filing a claim for unpaid salary in court, the state duty is not charged, only the services of a lawyer are paid, which can also be entered in the statement of claim.

2. A more complicated, but more reliable option is self-organization. To join a trade union, and not a “yellow” one, but a militant one, which will defend the interests of not the owners, but the workers. The law allows you to create your own trade union, as well as the so-called “trade union of the enterprise”, for the creation of which sometimes five people are enough. This is a serious matter for which one must prepare: and first of all, select and agitate comrades-in-arms who are ready not to yield to the insolent bourgeois, but to fight for their interests. Remember that you cannot cope with a rich and arrogant grabber alone. Only in unity is our strength!

If you need advice or consultation on choosing a militant trade union or preparing documents for registering a trade union or a statement of claim in court, please contact the Workers’ Front of Latvia.
For example, by email [email protected]

 1The name has been changed