The State Police Staff Start Creation of a Trade Union
In 2004 several employees at State Police filed complaints with the Republic of Latvia Ministry of Interior concerning injustice experienced by police officers in the field of social guarantees in comparison with other civil servants. Several police officers went to the court. In order to prevent aggravation of the situation and the threat of a strike the Government promised that police officer will be entitled to establish trade unions from 1 January 2006. The first step in this direction is renewal of the Police Society.
The unfair attitude towards the police officers in the field of social guarantees came to light when in 2004 several police officers filed complaints with the Republic of Latvia Ministry of Interior on failure to observe their social rights (LV0412101N).
As we already have told, the reason for the police complaints was disagreement within the system of laws for the civil service. The Civil Service Law stipulates that in Latvia there are general civil servants and specialized civil servants, the police among the latter. The work of the specialized civil service is stipulated by special laws, including the Law On the Police, while at the same time the provisions of the Civil Service Law, which determine general duties and general rights of civil servants also apply. As a result, a double status has been established for the servants of the specialized service. In at least two issues - concerning the child birth allowance and vacation allowances, the law does not explicitly specify the rights for the specialized services. Therefore usually these social guarantees are not applied to employees of specialized services, while the general civil servants do receive them.
In 2004 82 servants of the specialized civil service turned with their complaints about unpaid allowances to the Ministry of Interior, 57 brought action to the court and in four cases the court satisfied the claimant’s demands.
The Law On the Police prohibits the police officers to establish trade unions or other representative offices for the protection of the staff interests. However, understanding the fairness of the claims by the police officers, the Government promised to examine the issue of the possibility to establish the police trade union. Soon after that the Saeima of Latvia approved amendments to the Law On the Police, which allow the police officers to unite in trade unions to protect their labor and other socially economic rights and interests. The amendments to the Law come into force as of 1 January 2006. At the end of 2004 the National Human Rights Office (Valsts Cilvēktiesību birojs, VCB) submitted a statement of claim to the Constitutional Court (Satversmes tiesa) on declaring invalid the prohibition to unite in trade unions stipulated by the Law On the Police. If the Constitutional Court timely examines this issue, the police officers will be entitled to establish trade unions earlier, before 1 January 2006.
During the extensive debate that started after the approval of the Government decision for the establishment of the police trade union several aspects emerged. Establishment of the police trade union is related to the increased social guarantees for the police. With the help of trade unions it could be achieved that the social guarantees applicable to those working in general civil service would apply to the police officers without losing their special social and security guarantees. This would increase the police maintenance expenditure. The establishment of the trade union is also disputed with regard to the national security - for example, with regard to the right to organize strikes. Finally, it is stressed that several social guarantee norms, such as observation of regular and overtime working hours are difficult to apply due to the specific features of the police work, so special solutions will have to be found.
In the meantime, representatives of the police trade union initiative group decided to renew Latvian Police Society (Latvijas Policistu biedrība, LPB) which was founded during the first independence years of Latvia, in 1923. At that time the LPB took care of the professional rights and interests of the police. It is expected that on 1 January 2006 the LPB will change into the trade union and will take over the functions of a trade union. Up to now about three thousand police officers in Latvia have expressed their support to the establishment of Latvian Police Trade Union (Latvijas Policistu arodbiedrība, LPA).
Representatives of the police trade union initiative group think that by establishing the LPB it will be possible to keep up the determination to be active and prevent unexpected turns in the process of establishing the police trade union that might occur before 1 January 2006. Besides, the LPB is a good chance to learn a trade union working experience. The general founding meeting of LPB is scheduled for 30 April 2005.
The police initiative to establish a trade union is supported by Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia (Latvijas Brīvo Arodbiedrību savienība, LBAS), as well as police trade unions of various European countries and representatives of European Confederation of Police EUROCOP, who have expressed their readiness to provide assistance to their Latvia colleagues.
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