Medics say they won't work extra hours in July warning campaign

The council of the Latvian Health and Social Care Workers' Trade Union (LVSADA) decided on May 16 to call on healthcare workers to start a protest campaign by refusing to work extended regular working hours in July.

In Latvia, employees are paid 100% additional payment for working overtime or more than 40 hours a week, while medics have the so-called extended regular working hours, receiving only regular wage for 60 hours of work per week.

The regime was introduced in 2009 during the economic downturn. The Health Ministry plans to return medics to regular overtime payments by 2020. 

LVSADA deputy head Liga Barina said that the union will organize an informative campaign to explain the meaning of the warning protest.

If by July 1 there's a decision over lifting extended regular working hours this year, the union board might stop the warning campaign.

Barina said that the warning campaign could be just a start – if medics are not heard, other forms of protest might be considered, including mass resignations or strikes. "We are not ready to live on promises," she said.

She says that health care workers have to submit an application to their employers, describing their refusal to work extended regular working hours for a month. At the same time, this is a decision that should be made by each medic on their own.

LVSADA chairman Valdis Keris earlier said that lawmakers are trying to delay making decisions on lifting the extended regular working hours,

The responsible Saeima committee has agreed that the proposed legislative amendments to the Medical Treatment Law on reduction of the extended regular working hours should be supported in principle, but the wording in the bill should be changed. The committee agreed to set up a work group with representatives from the Finance Ministry, the Health Ministry, the Welfare Ministry and other institutions and organizations.

According to Health Ministry estimates, reducing medics' extended regular working hours from 60 hours a week to 40 hours a week starting July 1 would require an extra €2.9 million this year, €15 million in 2018, and €27 million in 2019.

Finance Ministry representatives said that there is no such fiscal space in the budget in 2017 and 2018, meaning such measures would increase the budget deficit. 

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