VILNIUS - President Valdas Adamkus ended months of unrest between government members and police over outstanding salaries when he urged both to work out their problems at the negotiating table.
Adamkus said that the parties could resolve the conflict through dialogue and compromise rather than battle it out in court. During a meeting with the president on April 29, trade union representatives emphasized that the government had ignored all their proposals on solving the row and that, up to now, the officers' demands had gone unheard.
"The president has suggested 's especially to the party representing the government 's sitting down at the negotiating table and looking for ways to prevent any harm to the interest of employees and to ensure that it's not too heavy a burden for the state to pay the outstanding salaries," said presidential spokeswoman Rita Grumadaite.
The officers are demanding a refund for the portion of their salaries that went unpaid because of an illegitimate government-approved resolution in 2002.
The regulation read that public servants would be paid less than their due salaries if municipalities failed to allocate necessary funds for wages. Under this scheme, the country's police officers lost some 100 's 300 litas (29 's 87 euros) of income each month.
Last December, however, the Constitutional Court ruled that the government's resolution contradicted legal principles and that the salaries in question should not be lower than the amount due. The country's highest judicial institution resolved that, having performed his assignment, a public servant could not be deprived of remuneration and the Constitution protected his rights to receive money owed.
With the court's ruling in hand, a total of 481 international officers, represented by authorized trade unions, headed to trial on Feb. 28. The police sued the state over outstanding salaries, claiming some 500,000 litas.
Meanwhile, the public servants' total debt is estimated to range from 150 's 300 million litas.
However, the government refused to compensate the unpaid amount.
Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas explained that the discord started two years ago when a new law regulating the wages of public servants came into force. The new rule had to be gradually implemented in accordance with budget capabilities. He said the police department abused the law, increasing the wages to impossible amounts and therefore artificially creating debt.
As a result, the government claimed that police officers ought to blame themselves for the misunderstanding.
"Disregarding financial allocations in the budget, [the police department] established higher salaries and created an artificial debt. If all of Lithuania did the same, we would go bankrupt," Brazauskas said on National Radio. The debt exists, "without any doubt," but the main conclusions have to be made in court, the prime minister added.
The police later lost their case against the state as the Vilnius District Administrative Court concluded that the Constitutional Court's rulings could not be applied according to the statute of limitations. The courts have received some 5,000 appeals from police officers and other public servants. Judges have been forced to reject the appeals one after another.
During the trade unions' meeting with the president, those representing public servants demonstrated their willingness to compromise and even suggested resolutions. This also served as proof, however, that the unions failed in their promise to strike while suing the state.