The Slovenia Times

Employers Back Social Pact Guidelines


President of the Employers' Association Milan Lukič expressed support for the guidelines. He wants social dialogue to start as soon as possible, but is certain that disagreements will show in drafting of structural measures.

He noted that the economy had already paid a high price, adding that the public sector will have to be reviewed. Not to cut jobs, but to find expert leaders capable of heading individual departments for the public sector to become an efficient service provider.

Tatjana Čerin of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) underlined that it was high time for structural reforms. She believes that any procrastination will cost Slovenia an additional year.

"Fact is that Slovenian companies must be unburdened - not just with one measure, but with many - to create new jobs, added value and increase productivity," said Čerin, who labelled the government's guidelines as good.

Head of Slovenia's biggest trade union association ZSSS Dušan Semolič is optimistic that social partners will be able to reach an agreement on the new pact by 20 June, ten days before the austerity act expires.

As regards to the government's guidelines, he noted that to avoid a next crisis, one must be aware of what triggered the crisis. Instead of imposing structural reforms for financial institutions, the burden in being carried by the welfare state and the workers, Semolič was critical.

He believes that Slovenia should focus more on how to increase budget revenue, improve the system of public procurement, curb grey economy and late payments. It should moreover introduce a tax on financial transactions, but the key to it all is relaunching the economy.

Branimir Štrukelj, who heads the KSJS federation of public sector trade unions, is worried what will happen to welfare state if the envisaged measures are implemented.

The KSJS fears that this will mean a permanent drop in the level of welfare state and demands that the social agreement should lay down how, who and when will participate, once the economy turns upwards.

The KSJS also insists that the social agreement should include the statement signed by trade unions and most political parties on 22 December, which would be a guarantee that there will be no unilateral interventions in the rights of the employers, pensioners and other groups.

This statement was however not signed by the ruling Democrats (SDS). Prime Minister Janez Janša said his party did not sign it because it could become "problematic". He said however that the party agrees with the promise in the statement - that crisis measures be laid down in social dialogue before the expiry of the austerity bill.

Štrukelj also asked Janša how will the public sector negotiate with the government about its position after 30 June - as this cannot be included in the social agreement.

He also noted that the number of public sector employees is growing in all developed European countries, saying that only Eastern European countries cut the number of public sector employees. If Romania is Slovenia's role model, than the country is in really big trouble, said Štrukelj.

Janša responded by saying that several EU members with similar downturn as Slovenia's cut their public sector by 10%, 15% or even more. In some countries, public sector pay was lowered, among them Germany, which recorded a 3% economic growth last year, but still decided to cut public sector pay by 2.5%.

In Slovenia the number of public sector employees grew by 4.4% between 2008 and 2010, Janša said. He finds it unusual that the government increased the number of jobs in the public sector by 8,000, although there was nothing to justify this, while at the same time some 50,000 jobs were lost in the real economy.

It will be necessary to cut the number of employees in the public sector, however the government will try to do it as softly as possible, Janša stressed.

The head of trade unions association Pergam, Janez Posedi, believes that the social dialogue should include representatives from the agriculture sector, which is an important part of Slovenia's economy.

The new government presented to the social partners today guidelines for a new social pact at the first meeting of the Economic and Social Council since the cabinet's appointment. Janša told the meeting that social partners should establish a dialogue of equals in forming of the pact for a prosperous Slovenia.

The employers' and trade union representatives now have seven days to submit their positions and remarks to the government's guidelines. After that, the sides will have a fortnight to adjust the guidelines, after which negotiations on the contents of the agreement will be launched.


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