RIGA - Disgruntled police have threatened to stage a picket unless the Interior Ministry distributes their overdue holiday allowances, police trade union leader Agris Suna told the Baltic News Service on April 4. "They promised that our overdue vacation payment for the years 2003, 2004 and 2005 would be made up by the beginning of the 2006 World Ice Hockey Championship in Riga, but so far it looks like this won't be done," said Suna.
The complaints don't stop there. Police are also upset about their threadbare garments and want something more respectable to wear while on duty.
"We're also worried about our worn-out uniforms," said Suna, adding that foreigners attending the championship are likely be surprised by the tattered appearance of Latvia's police.
The trade union has scheduled a meeting with Interior Minister Dzintars Jaundzeikars and Interior Ministry State Secretary Aivars Straume on April 12, where they will finally decide on whether or not to stage a picket.
"At present there's a 90 percent chance that the picket will be organized. Debts are not a good thing, and too many promises have been made. The current mood suggests that there will be a picket," said Suna.
"We want to talk with the minister so he understands the reason for such troubles," he added.
Police intend to stage a picket either outside the Interior Ministry or the Cabinet of Ministers.
In response to police allegations over the ministry's reluctance to pay overdue allowances, Straume told the Baltic News Service that "It is not true. Things are being done."
The minister was discussing the problem with Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis as The Baltic Times went to press. "We will present our calculations to the premier and he will review our proposals," said Jaundzeikars.
Straume promised that all overdue allowances would be clear by the beginning of the championship, which is due to start on May 4. "I do not see any other option. Maybe things won't be that bad and the problem will be solved," he said.
As for uniforms, the secretary said only a part of the police force would receive new attire before the world championship, most likely those working on the most important assignments, such as patrolling the ice arenas. He softly reminded officers that their uniform situation was not as critical as the fire fighters', quickly adding that the police force had been allocated a rather big sum for technical supplies. "They should get new uniforms next year," he said.