Specialised civil servants demand better pay and conditions

As part of a campaign to secure the rights of specialised civil servants, the Latvian Police Society planned to organise a picket in Riga on 16 August 2005 - the day when the government was to decide on amendments to the 2005 state budget. Firefighters and border guards were to join the police officers' protests, which focus on pay rises, and payment of childbirth, vacation and other allowances stipulated by law.

The situation in the specialized civil service has continued to be tense since 2004. Due to lack of funding salaries of the employees of these services are low; their social rights are not observed. Under Latvian legislation salaries of civil servants are regulated by a system of laws which stipulates special provisions for the specialized civil service, but does not state whether the general civil service salary payment principles and social guarantees apply to the specialized civil servants. There was an assumption that the general social guarantees do not apply to specialized civil servants (police officers, firefighters and border guards), because the special laws regulating their work stipulated special guarantees - for working in dangerous conditions, allowances for families in the case of the death of the breadwinner, and others. The unclear situation and the fact that the special allowances were not paid led to protests by the police in 2004. The police officers considered that they are entitled to receive at least part of the general allowances, namely, the childbirth allowance and vacation allowance (LV0412101N).

To support the demands of the police, in 2004 the public organization Latvian Police Society (Latvijas Policistu biedrība, LPB) that existed in Latvia before the war, was renewed. The Government took the decision to permit the police officers to organize their trade union, but not before 1 January 2006. The special decision concerning the police trade union was necessary, because the presently applicable legislation prohibits civil servants to strike or otherwise demonstrate their labor rights.

As a result of the growing inflation and increase in fuel prices the financial situation has become tense in other specialized civil services - firefighting and border guarding. Due to the lack of funds the firefighters have announced that they will seriously circumscribe rescue operations and technical assistance, except in cases when the health and lives of civil population are endangered. The police, firefighters and border guarding services are in debt to fuel suppliers, because the increase of fuel prices was not considered in the funding of these services.

Salaries are still low in all services - about EUR 215 per month (the average gross salary in the public sector is EUR 345, net - EUR 246). As a result of the low salaries servants leave their positions in the specialized civil service - especially many people have resigned from the police during the last months.

Understanding the seriousness of the situation and considering that the request of the specialized civil services to increase the funding in the budget of 2005 was not taken into account, LPB has decided to organize a protest - a picket on 16 August - the day when the Government is planning to decide on the amendments to the 2005 budget. Also firefighters and border guards have promised to joint the police officers. Servants of the specialized civil service can only participate in picket action in their free time, for such participation not to be considered a violation and administratively punished. This restriction notwithstanding, LPB has applied for permission to Riga City Council (Rīgas Dome, RD) for a picket of about 1,000 participants.

The picket participants put forward three key demands. First, all services demand increased salaries. Second, the picketers demand that specialized civil servants are paid childbirth allowance and vacation allowance, because in the highest judicial body of Latvia - Supreme Court Senate (Augstākās Tiesas Senāts) decision were taken that police officers have a lawful right to receive such allowances since the adoption of the law (in 2001). This sentence is unappealable, and it has the force of law. As the Ministry does not have sufficient funds, the allowances are still not being paid. The amount of the unpaid allowances has already reached EUR 20 million. Third, specialized civil servants demand that they are paid the special allowances stipulated by the law, which are not paid either due to the lack of funding. The strongest objections of the picketers are related to that the state does not comply with laws and regulations.

According to the calculations of the RL Ministry of Interior (Latvijas Republikas Iekšlietu ministrija, LR IeM), not less than EUR 40 million are necessary to increase the salaries of the specialized civil servants, while at least EUR 130 million are necessary to liquidate the crisis in the specialized civil services. The Ministry treats the demands of the specialized civil servants to increase their remuneration with understanding, while the opinions differ with regard to establishing the police trade union.

The Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia (Latvijas Brīvo Arodbiedrību savienība, LBAS) is not directly involved in organizing the picket, but it is assisting the police in deciding about establishing their trade union. It is not known yet whether the police trade union will be established.

This information is made available through the European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO), as a service to users of the EIROnline database. EIRO is a project of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. However, this information has been neither edited nor approved by the Foundation, which means that it is not responsible for its content and accuracy. This is the responsibility of the EIRO national centre that originated/provided the information. For details see the "About this record" information in this record.

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