Michal: No Right to Strike for Civil Servants, But More Flexibility (1)
One of the cornerstones of the new proposed Public Service Act is that civil servants do not have the right to go on strike, says Justice Minister Kristen Michal, but the structure of the public service will be more flexible and transparent.
Michal said on ETV it was a fundamental decision, that he foresaw would be a bone of contention with union representatives, but that they would have to agree to disagree.
"[The unions'] basic wish is that all people in Estonia would go on strike, including public servants. We will have to disagree on this," said Michal.
In the current de facto situation, which has been unresolved for years, civil servants do not have the right to strike. While unions are not necessarily seeking the right to strike for all public servants, they say civil servants currently lack sufficient means to bring pressure on the government in resolving labor disputes.
Harri Taliga, head of the Confederation of Trade Unions, said that if civil servants lack the right to strike, there must be a clear recourse to arbitrators and conciliators to resolve conflicts. "It can't be as another justice minister said a few years ago that if a policeman isn't satisfied with his pay, he should contact the MP from his constituency or whom he voted for," Taliga told ETV. "This is not a serious suggestion: the state can't behave this way."
Rhetoric has escalated recently with a raft of bills from ministries that unions see as chipping away at workers' rights and mechanisms for resolving labor disputes. The government has also exerted direct control over unemployment fund reserves, which were previously administered by a troika of unions, employers and state.
But Michal noted that the second basic principle for the coalition in reforming the Public Service Act is that as the state becomes more streamlined, more people will be working on the basis of employment contracts, and these private contractors are not prohibited from striking.
Third, Michal said that there will be greater transparency in salaries: after debate he described as emotional, the coalition has decided that all public servants' wages should be public information.