Police worker trade union backs police chief in interior ministry deadlock

PPA director Elmar Vaher.
PPA director Elmar Vaher. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The trade union of police workers (Politseiteenistujate Ametiühing) has expressed its support for Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) chief Elmar Vaher, currently the subject of attack from ministers and members of the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE), claiming that communication by Vaher regarding staff issues has been in accordance with correct procedures.

Vaher said earlier in the week that redundancies of around 150 PPA staff were on the table, something which finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE), deputizing for the interior minister Mart Helme, who was on vacation, strongly rejected, saying that Vaher was using his staff as a "human shield".

On returning from vacation Thursday afternoon and ahead of restarting work next Wednesday, Mart Helme said that Vaher should step down from his post on the grounds of being "dishonest" about the redundancies claim, doubling down on his position in an interview with daily Postimees published Friday morning.

Prime minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) expressed support for Vaher via his social media page Thursday evening, saying he had faith in the PPA chief and the organization's credibility in the eyes of the public. Ratas had already said earlier on Thursday that no redundancies were imminent at the PPA.

Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas called on Thursday for either Mart and Martin Helme to be dismissed, or the entire government to step down, via her social media account.

The police workers' trade union said that it put a high stock in important news concerning employees being broken first to employees either personally, or via an organization's intranet, before these went public.

Vaher's announcement on the potential redundancies was first leaked from the PPA's own intranet, where it had been made.

"The publicly circulated PPA intranet article about possible areas for cutbacks, including potential lay-offs, was aimed at the PPA's own employees and reached the public arena afterwards," the union said in a statement, according to BNS.

"The article explained that there is currently no clarity on the authority's actual need for cutbacks and this is why there is no final decision regarding lay-offs. This sequence of events is in accordance with the agreement established between the trade union and the PPA director general , and the trade union has no complaints regarding the behavior of the director general," the statement continued.

The trade union also expressed concern regarding the behavior of finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE) and interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE).

"According to the information made public, the ministers' behavior towards the PPA director general is not appropriate for a democratic state in the western cultural space, but typical of what is done in a totalitarian society. The trade union finds that such behavior is not ethical, and no manager should behave in this way with their subordinate, regardless of the position of those persons," the statement continued.

Elmar Vaher himself said Thursday that the call for him to resign, which included documentation apparently digitally signed by interior ministry Secretary General Lauri Lugna, though the latter had not actually signed it himself, was invalid.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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