Cops, firefighters, prison guards deserve better wages, warns ministry official

Unless the uniformed state agencies in charge of public safety (like the police or fire and rescue services) get significant salary hikes and extra budget resources next year, there will only be greater attrition of qualified officers from these critical jobs, Interior Ministry state secretary Ilze Pētersone-Godmane told LTV morning news program Rīta Panorāma Friday.

She underscored the issue of increased wages as being the top priority of Latvia’s police force, fire and rescue service and prison system employees right now. For three years politicians have been promising greater financing for these sectors, first and foremost with regard to raising salary levels, however without tangible results. So beginning with next year, they really expect the promise to be kept, she said.

The sum required for the Interior Ministry system as a whole stands at about €60 million.

“It’s critical that on January 1, 2016 these wage hikes really do go into effect. People have been coming to work and trusting in this particular date. I’ve always told politicians when they make such promises they’d better consider the consequences. The labor unions have clearly drawn the line, that if this time promises are broken, they will agitate with their members to make their position publically evident. This is by far the single most important priority, because only then can we talk about next steps, the material-technical base, and training. Right now the priority must be the person – that they be properly clothed and equipped, loyal, professional and working in the Interior system,” the ministry’s parliamentary liaison said.

Asked whether police and fire and rescue service workers might protest or walk off the job in case of ongoing disgruntlement, she affirmed that “such risks definitely exist.”

“Our social partners have told us point blank that such actions will be planned if they sense the government isn’t forthcoming toward dialogue or seeking solutions. We’re trying to convince them that internal and external security must be the government’s priorities. We hope we can convince members of the government of the dire consequences we can expect if these promises aren’t kept,” said Pētersone-Godmane.

She stressed that wage increases would of course depend on the seniority and official position of rank, but warned also that new recruits must also be able to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads. The ministry official pointed out that the gap between what a cop makes compared to a judge or prosecutor is almost double the difference and therefore makes it hard to demand high-quality results from police officers.

However, not all state officials are living in such straitened circumstances after it emerged Friday that central bank governor Ilmars Rimsevics received a pay rise of 21% last year

Rimsevics salary rose from €115,379 in 2013 to €139,644 in 2014 according to his official income declaration.

His total income for 2014 was even higher at €241,853.

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