State Forest Service employees complain about reform plans

Nearly 400 employees of the State Forest Service have signed a letter to senior state officials calling for a halt in what they consider to be hasty reforms in the service, reports Latvian Radio. 

The letter claims that Aina Stašāne, Director General of the Forest Service, is implementing ill-considered and economically unjustified reforms that will destroy the forest monitoring system.

The concerns of employees were expressed by Ilze Kalniņa, Rīga Regional Chief Forestry Engineer and head of the local trade union: "We are very concerned that the system is being developed without listening to our professional opinions. Knowledge of their territory is a priority for each forester in this work, both in terms of monitoring the health of the forest and in carrying out fire protection during the summer, which is also largely based on the capabilities of foresters, and they are now well equipped to manage their territory. "

Kalniņa explained that a 'bypass model' had been introduced as an experimental variant in one of the forest districts for a few months, but according to the results, the service did not see any advantages to this new method. "Colleagues saw the disadvantages of this system more," she said.

She also commented on other objections from the signatories: "The new structure is building a very strong administrative apparatus, with an increase in the number of senior and middle managers and a corresponding reduction in the number of forest officials. It is doubtful whether this will benefit forestry."

She pointed out that another "big pain" of employees is salaries, which were not increased for four years and despite an increase in November are still not considered competitive compared to the salaries of those working in other similar structures in the forest sector.

Latvijas Radio said that Stašāni was appointed to her position by the Minister of Agriculture Kaspars Gerhards (National Association) without an open competition. Previously, Stašāne was the Deputy Director General of the State Environmental Service. In turn, she has hired her former boss, Inga Koļegova, to carry out reforms in the forestry service, despite the latter having been found guilty of making false financial declarations.

Further structural changes in the service are due to be outlined at a press conference Friday. The administration of the service points out that the changes have been accepted by the ministry, and were drawn up with the participation of leading employees. It also emphasized that the changes will create an excellent customer experience, and will modernise the service.

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