The Slovenia Times

Unions Critical, Employers Less So



The proposed reforms cover the priorities as set out in the Strategy in a bid to make the Slovenian economy more competitive, focusing especially on the most critical areas where reforms can do most to secure economic growth and employment. A priority of boosting competitiveness and economic growth should be achieved through privatisation, the development of the financial system, public finance restructuring, tax system reform, measures to improve the EU fund-phasing capacity, and the liberalisation in the field of public utilities. A more efficient and cheaper state is the goal of another development priority. It should be achieved through streamlining the public sector and upgrading the drafting and implementation of the budget in addition to introducing measures for a more efficient use of EU funds. The last development priority includes measures for a more flexible labour market, a higher level of employment and a more just system of social transfers motivating the jobless to find a job. Changes to the pension system and the national health system are also among the measures in this group. Unhappy with the proposal, representatives of trade unions said that the biggest danger of the proposed measures is that social security will be drastically cut. The unions pointed to the need for social dialogue on the proposed changes. In his presentation of the reforms, Prime Minister Janez Jansa stressed that Slovenia was part of a highly-competitive European and global market. The country cannot ignore global trends and must seek to become more competitive, he told the Economic and Social Council, which brings together the government, employers and unions. According to him, Slovenian companies are no strangers to outsourcing. The reforms are designed to promote the creation of quality jobs in Slovenia and to allow Slovenian companies to invest in research and development, Mr Jansa explained. Responding to Mr Jansa's address, the head of the Association of Free Trade Unions of Slovenia said that reforms must be a common project involving all the social partners. We must tackle the issues together and find common solutions, the president of the unions association Mr Dusan Semolic said. According to him, the unions view is that the basic factor in the changes should be people and not profit or capital. The unions voiced the greatest opposition to the proposal for a flat tax rate, which they claim would hit low-income earners the hardest because of the rise in food prices due to a rise in value added tax. Moreover, unionists reject claims that companies would invest the money they save on taxes in the creation of new jobs and research & development. According to the president of the Employers' Association, Stojan Binder, the reforms would ease the pressure of businesses, improve the country's competitive ability and reduce labour costs. Mr Binder rejected claims that the effects of lower labour costs from lower taxes would result in employers amassing profits and not investing in the creation of new jobs or in research and development. Moreover, he said that employers share the view of the unions on the need to enact legislation on profit sharing. "Employers wish to maintain social stability by ensuring that the living standard of employees does not deteriorate." The head of the Trade Union of Public Servants, meanwhile, claimed that the proposed measures have been drawn up on the basis of "secretive" analysis and studies. Drago Scernjavic called on the reform committee to outline the data on which the reform proposals have been based. Mr Jansa told the participants today that there would be enough time for the social partners to reconcile their views and reach agreement on individual measures, since they are only scheduled to take effect in 2007. At the moment, we are just looking to get support for the fundamental goals of the measures, he said.


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