Business organizations want the government to review requirements for attraction of guest workers, because it is nearly impossible to find workers in many fields. But the proposal’s viewing in the government has come to a halt because of arguments against it from the National Alliance, as reported by De Factor programme of LTV.
The programme reports that businessmen from different fields – mostly transport and agriculture – complain about the lack of labourers. The situation is rather paradoxical, as every tenth resident in Latvia is unemployed.
«Nearly half of all guest workers in Latvia are employed by transport operators. Most of the guest workers are employed as truck drivers. There is a chronic lack of drivers with appropriate qualification in Latvia. Many are employed by western companies,» – De Facto explains.
The programme reports that local employers have to offer wages equal to the average in the country to attract guest workers. This amount reaches EUR 818 a month before taxes. This is something most transport operators cannot afford. The average wage in the industry is 100 euros lower than the average in the country. Truck drivers are also paid business trip money.
«If we compare local drivers’ pay with that of guest workers, we notice discrimination. Guest workers are provided with better social protection – it is a paradox,» – says Valdis Trezins, a member of Latvijas auto vadītājs.
When asked if local drivers would agree to work if they are promised pay equal to what is provided to guest workers, Trezins said businessmen cannot afford that.
For example, it is allowed to pay minimal wages to local drivers and guest workers in Lithuania. Latvian truck drivers do not want the same requirements, rather to ensure average wages are calculated separately in each industry, the programme mentioned.
Currently the average wage in the country is pulled up by industries like IT and communications, energy, finances and insurance, state administration and security, in which average wages exceed the average in the country by a country mile.
«Whether it’s a high-rank financial specialist or berry-picker – the difference is significant,» – agrees deputy chief of Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs Maira Roze.
OCMA has developed rules to ensure minimal wages for guest workers are calculated separately in every industry. It was approved by all ministries except for Justice Ministry. The institution opposed the rules because of political reasons, not legal.
Justice Ministry’s parliamentary secretary Janis Iesalnieks from the National Alliance told De Facto that this is a red line matter for his party: «We want a Latvian Latvia. We are against attraction of cheap foreign labourers. This project cannot be let through in this government.»
The National Alliance does not oppose well-paid guest workers. If local low-wage recipients have to compete with foreigners in Latvia, it will lead to wage decline and departure of a larger number of people. Iesalnieks recommends solving the lack of labourers by paying Latvian residents bigger wages.
OCMA does not consider a wave of guest workers to be caused by aforementioned changes.
«Definitely no. If we look at wage in those industries, they are not so low that they can be considered minimal wages. Some even have very large wages. IT can no longer hire programmers for EUR 818. This is where equalization will come into play,» – Roze said.
De Facto reports that it is currently unclear as to when this matter will be submitted to the government for review. NA, in the meanwhile, promises to block this project in coalition talks.
Prof. Arnis Sauka notes that everyone would be happy for highly qualified professionals, if not for results of a study conducted among businessmen. Results of the study show that businessmen often lack even so-called blue collar workers.
«Hopefully, policy-makers will make steps necessary for either clever re-emigration or creation of tools to improve the situation, as it is impossible to improve labour availability with better demography alone,» – says Sauka.
More and more guest workers appear in Latvia every year. Work permits were issued to six thousand guest workers last year.