Saeima tinkers with labor law to drop foreign language requirement

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Saeima on September 6 approved in the first reading a bill amending the existing Labor Law, which says that employers will have no right to demand that their employees have to know a particular foreign language unless that is necessary in the employees' job.

55 MPs voted for the amendments proposed by the nationalist National Alliance party, twenty voted against and another eight did not participate in the vote, while Anrijs Matiss (Harmony party) abstained.

Previously the amendments were turned down by the Social and Employment Matters Committee, and the government's social partners also objected to the idea, therefore the committee decided to request the Welfare Ministry and Trilateral Cooperation Council's opinion about the amendments.

The Welfare Ministry said that the current version of the Labor Law already ensured sufficient protection from various kinds of discrimination and the amendments proposed by National Alliance were essentially superfluous.

During the debates about the bill in Saeima, various opinions were voiced, while MP Andrejs Klementjevs (Harmony) said that the proposed legislation was discriminatory.

Latvian Employers Confederation's expert Andris Alksnis told the committee earlier that the proposal was filed every time ahead of Saeima elections, but the Employers' Confederation did not support it. Trade unions' representative Kaspars Racenajs also said that the amendments were not necessary.

National Alliance said that the objective of the amendments was to prevent linguistic discrimination against Latvians at work, as well as to foster repatriation.

It is commonplace in job advertisements for knowledge of both Latvian and Russian to be a desired requirement for candidates, and it would likely be in this area that the legislation would have most effect, if it eventually makes it into law.

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