Strike threats on the increase

Strikes have not so far been common in Latvia, but in 2005 workers in a number of sectors appear to have become more willing to contemplate them. For example, in May and June, employees of judicial institutions and artists at the Latvian National Opera announced their readiness to strike to obtain pay increases.

Although wages are very low in Latvia and labour rights widely seen as being neglected, strikes have been rare until now. However, on several occasions in recent years, employees - notably teachers and healthcare workers - have managed to obtain at least partial satisfaction of their demands through strikes, and strikes are being more and more often considered as a means of resolving labour conflicts.

At the end of May 2005, the employees of judicial institutions issued pay demands. The staff of almost all courts supported a call by the employees of Riga Vidzeme Borough Court (Rīgas Vidzemes priekšpilsētas tiesa), addressed to the government, to raise the salaries of and social guarantees for judges and court employees from July 2005. Should the government fail to meet these demands, court employees threaten to strike. Like the officers of the State Police (Valsts Policija, VP), the employees of judicial institutions have also expressed their intention to found a trade union. Solvita Āboltiņa, the Minister of Justice, has supported the foundation of such a trade union. The Ministry, together with the trade union, could look for long-term solutions for how to increase remuneration and qualifications. The Minister has told the press that the judicial system has never been among the government’s priorities. She believes that it is necessary to change the government’s attitude toward courts, to put in order the Latvian judicial system and to restore trust in the courts, and in this connection also to increase the salaries of court employees. The Minister has promised to implement part of these plans, an increase in judges’ salaries, in 2005.

During the congress of the Latvian Association of Theatre Employees (Latvijas Teātru darbinieku savienība, LTDS), which took place on 6 June 2004, a demand was made to the government to stop 'downgrading' the art of drama and to determine by a regulation of the Cabinet of Ministers that the salary of actors in professional theatres must be equal to four times the minimum wage, ie EUR 455 a month. Bigger salaries are also demanded by librarians, employees of museums and archives.

At the beginning of June, a strike was announced by the soloists of the Latvian National Opera (Latvijas Nacionālā Opera, LNO). During a meeting with Andrejs Žagars, the LNO director, the soloists complained of their low salaries and of being forced out of work by inviting guest soloists. The remuneration of these artists consists of their basic salary, which for many of them does not exceed the average wage, and different changing allowances, depending on workload. The average salary of an opera soloist at the LNO is EUR 472 a month, the salary of orchestra players - EUR 436, of ballet artists - EUR 412, of chorus singers - EUR 350, but the highest salaries are almost 10 times higher than the lowest ones. The administration of LNO did not acknowledge the demands of the artists.

One day later, the LNO trade union confirmed the strike and kept to its previous strike notice and demands. The strike was scheduled for 16 June 2005, during the festival of Riga Opera. Since the administration of the Opera found several mistakes in the strike notice, it was disputed in the court, and the strike did not take place. The decision to revoke the strike was passed only an hour before the beginning of the performance, as the administration of LNO and the trade unions of soloists agreed on temporary solutions on the issue of salaries and the international attestation of soloists, scheduled for the autumn.

Unrest has also started in some sports institutions. On 3 May, the members of the Venta football team, in the highest league in the Latvian Football Championship, refused to train and threatened not to play matches, because their promised remuneration had not been paid for months.

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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