Demonstrators picket parliament

  • 2007-10-11
  • From wire reports

RIGA -- Over 1,000 people gathered to demonstrate outside the Latvian parliament building Oct. 11 to support action organized by trade unions opposed to next year's state budget.

Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia (LBAS) representative Sanita Lorence said that the demonstration included around 500 teachers, 400 policemen, approximately 100 pensioners, around 80 medics, and various public transport and public services trade unions representatives.

The picket was peaceful, with the most notable incident being when teachers shouted that politicians should go back to school "to improve their listening skills, so that they can hear what the people say."

Later, protestors sang the Latvian national anthem.

The protesters held placards aloft asking for higher salaries and better social security. One of the placards depicted Latvian Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis soaring in the clouds, while a teacher stands with a begging bowl below.

Some of the placards had statements like "Kalvitis, stop lying!, Decide honestly, We are against poverty, Mammoths died out during the ice age as well, is 284 lats a salary to be frozen now?" and other imaginative slogans.

Before the day's parliamentary session, Latvian parliamentary speaker and former doctor Gundars Daudze met with demonstrators and arranged to do so again next week.

"I am for reaching a compromise. There should be a dialogue with the public. I am always open," said Daudze, adding that the budget has to be submitted to the committees on Thursday to discuss its contents.

Some other lawmakers came out to talk to the picket participants, including representatives of opposition New era party Ausma Kantane and Karlis Sadurskis, the People's Party faction chairman Maris Kucinskis, Latvian Interior Minister and co chairman of Latvian First Party/Latvian Way bloc Ivars Godmanis, one of the opposition party Harmony Center leaders Valerijs Agesins.

If workers' demands remain unheeded and their salaries are frozen, LBAS will collect signatures and explore how it might be able to force the dissolution of the parliament, LBAS head Peteris Krigers told the press.

On Oct. 17, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty declared by the UN, LBAS plans to meet with Latvian president Valdis Zatlers - another former doctor.