Ministry of the Interior starts talks on collective agreement

Talks on setting up a collective agreement for employees of the Latvian Interior Ministry began in December 2010. Linda Mūrniece, Minister of the Interior, wants to establish cooperation with the relevant unions while state organisations are being forced to cut expenditure on salaries, long-service bonuses and early retirement at the age of 50. There has been a long-standing conflict between the minister and the police union which has repeatedly called for her to resign.

Minister calls for collective agreement

Linda Mūrniece asked Aivars Pencis, former chief of the State Fire and Rescue Service (VUGD), to initiate talks with all trade unions about a collective agreement. The State Police (VP) also began discussions about a collective agreement with police trade unions and Ministry of the Interior trade unions.

Social dialogue in progress

There is already social dialogue between the ministry and trade unions through the auspices of The Public Security Sub-Council of the National Tripartite Cooperation Council (NTSP), which regularly reviews draft legislation. The council comprises representatives from the ministry, the Latvian Employers’ Confederation (LDDK) and the Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia (LBAS).

Trade unions’ history of discontent

Austerity measures form the background of the long-standing conflict between Ms Mūrniece, and Aivars Sūna, Head of the Latvian United Police Trade Union (LAPA). She held the same post during the previous administration, and the union repeatedly called for her resignation.

After the parliamentary elections in October 2010, LAPA again unsuccessfully lobbied for her to go. The union organised a demonstration on 2 November 2010, the day when the new parliament first sat; however, only about 15 people showed up for the demonstration.

Armands Augustāns, Chair of the Trade Union of Latvian Interior Employees (LIDA), also backed the calls for Ms Mūrniece to go, but he regarded small protest meetings as an ineffective weapon. Moreover, the VUGD and the VP, both of which are under the Ministry of the Interior, dissociated themselves from LAPA’s charges.

Ms Mūrniece was officially reinstated as Minister of the Interior on 3 November, 2010. Protests by LAPA have diminished, and talks on the collective agreement continue.

Commentary

The police trade unions maintain an atmosphere of protest, but their range of demands is narrow, focusing on the minister herself. An essential element of social dialogue is missing in the activity of the trade unions – mutual cooperation and willingness to compromise.

The minister’s desire to conclude a collective agreement could counter the one-sidedness of the social dialogue. On the other hand, her initiative could be an attempt to stifle the legitimate demands of the employees of the state’s security services. Regardless of her true intent, it is significant that a dialogue to avert complications in the economic crisis is taking place.

Raita Karnite, Economic Prognosis Centre Ltd.

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