Public sector workers protest in Riga, Vilnius

  • 2009-04-02
  • TBT Staff in cooperation with BNS

Teachers took to the streets in Riga to try to keep their salaries.

RIGA - Thousands of teachers and education workers have taken to the streets in Riga to protest a government plan to cut financing and slash wages in the sector.

Police estimate that as many as 10,000 people took part in the rally, which began at 2 p.m. and saw protesters march down Terbetes street to the Cabinet of Ministers building on Brivibas.

Leading the march was Chairwoman of the Latvian Education andScience Workers Association Astrida Harbacevica and her deputy,Janis Krastins.

Teachers from all over the country arrived for the event, which remained peaceful throughout. Protesters brandished signs reading "more financing for education and science" and "education and science - Latvia's future," among others.

"Our government is now shortening our salaries by either 20 or 40 percent, and some of our personnel will be fired," said Alexander Elsbergs, a teacher who took part in the march.

"In order to shorten expenses they are going to destroy schools," he said.

In Lithuania, meanwhile, a rally called by thecountry's police, rescue and border officers near the government building in Vilnius went bypeacefully. Demonstrators scattered after leaving in the entryway of thegovernment building an extinguisher and a battering ram, which are tosymbolize the miserable situation the country's officers are left in.

The protest rally, which lasted about 20 minutes, involved a few dozen ofpolice, fire-and-rescue, customs and border services.

Lined up next to the monument to Vincas Kudirka in central Vilnius, theofficers - some of them barefoot - held slogans saying "I Once Had a Pair ofShoes, Thank You For Taking Both of Them," "Sunset for Officers, Sunrisefor the Mafia."

Leaders of national trade unions of officers said that Lithuania wasamong the few countries of the European Union to drastically cutfinancing of the interior system.

The protest rally was completed and the participants left afterannouncement of the nation-wide protest action scheduled for April 25.