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Minister: pressure is needed, but the message of LVSADA’s protest is unclear

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budget 2020, Ilze Viņķele, LVSADA, doctors, wages, healthcare, funding

Healthcare Minister Ilze Viņķele

Pressure from doctors will be needed in the future, but the message of the protest organized by Latvian Trade Union of Health and Social Care Workers (LVSADA) is unclear, Latvia’s Healthcare Minister Ilze Viņķele told journalists on Tuesday, 19 November.

Next week, on 28 November, LVSADA plans to hold another protest outside the Saeima. This time protesters will request the parliament’s dismissal, voice no confidence to the healthcare minister and ask the president to return to the Saeima the budget for 2020 for a repeated viewing.

Viņķele explained that budget formation is the entire government’s responsibility, not that of the healthcare minister.

«As much as I would like to, I cannot decide on the budget’s contents on my own. This is why I consider LVSADA’s protest a more of a symbolic action. Perhaps the trade union does not have the spirit to request the entire government’s dismissal,» said Viņķele.

When asked to assess the situation if Latvia’s President Egils Levits responds to the trade union’s request and returns the budget for 2020 to the parliament for a repeated viewing, the minister said LVSADA as a national trilateral dialogue partner should be ‘sufficiently knowledgeable’ in legislation that governs circulation of regulations, which makes it clear that a budget adopted urgently cannot be returned for a repeated viewing to the Saeima.

Answering the question if she intends for solidarity with doctors during the protest, Viņķele said this is a question of the protest’s message.

«It is clear to me what message is used by Latvian Doctors Association and Latvian Young Doctors Association, but I cannot say the same about demands made by LVSADA. Nevertheless, when it comes to protests, pressure is needed so that we end up in a situation with the budget for 2021 when there are needs and promises but no source of funding. This is why it is critically important for doctors to be present during talks for the formation of the budget for 2021 and tax policy,» said the minister.

As it is known, LVSADA chairman Valdis Keris has told media representatives that along with the protest act a request will be submitted to the Central Election Commission to organize collection of signatures for a referendum on dismissing the current Saeima.

At the same time, protesters will demand dismissal for Healthcare Minister Ilze Viņķele.

Representatives of the trade union plan to ask the State President Egils Levits to return the Law on State Budget 2020 and Law on Medium-Term Budget Content for 2020, 2021 and 2022 to the parliament for repeated review.

The protest act itself will be discussed in more detail soon, said Keris.

Read also: Doctors: Healthcare Ministry’s offered wage increase model is unfair

On 14 November, Latvia’s Saeima approved in the final reading the country’s 2020 budget, promising to allocate approximately EUR 60 million to raise wages for doctors.

Saeima’s decision made in 2018 provided for allocating EUR 120 million to raise doctors’ wages in 2020. This would have allowed raising wages by an average of 20%. However, the coalition has since admitted that approval of this law was a mistake, because there is no way to secure promised finances.

Initially it was planned to allocate EUR 42 million for doctors’ wages. However, in response to the growing outrage, a decision was made to review previously supported priorities. After reviewing budget priorities, as well as looking at profits of state companies and the central bank, the government found another EUR 18 million. This allows for allocating a total amount of EUR 60 million for doctors’ wages.

LVSADA chairman Keris had previously said that if the changes requested by doctors are not implemented, a request will be put in for the healthcare minister’s dismissal, signatures will be collected for the Saeima’s dismissal and a protest organized.

LAB president Aizsilniece had previously said that if doctors’ proposals end up ignored, there will be a new strike. According to her, doctors were ignored during the budget review process, and different methods were employed to ensure the budget is reviewed is as quickly as possible without addressing problems.

The previous protest did not bring desired results, and although around 4 000 people had participated in it no guarantees were secured in regards to wage requests.

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