The Slovenia Times

Another Covid relief package backed as opposition obstructs committee session


Ljubljana - The parliamentary Finance Committee backed the 10th coronavirus relief bill on Thursday while part of the opposition obstructed the session over the manner in which it was chaired and over provisions the parliament's legal service criticised. Navigating through some 90 amendments, it backed one to increase pay for doctors and dentists.

The coalition tabled the amendment to move doctors and dentists from the 57th pay bracket in the public pay system to up to the 63rd until the end of 2022.

With this measure, the government will implement a doctors' strike demand from 2016.

The highest pay bracket for public servants is the 57th, whereas the higher brackets are meant for public office holders, including the prime minister and president.

According to the newspaper Delo, 35% of all doctors are now in this bracket while the average doctor's monthly pay this year is EUR 4,960 gross.

With the new measures, their pay could increase by around 25%, as the base pay in the 57th bracket is EUR 3,960 gross but EUR 5,010 in the 63rd.

Sonja Bien Karlovšek from the parliament's legal service wondered whether the measure had anything to do with preventing the spread of the virus or its consequences.

While the main doctor's union, FIDES, has not commented saying the bill has not yet been passed, the negotiating group of the public sector trade unions sees no reason to lift the limit on doctor's pay.

Presenting the bill to the MPs, Finance Minster Andrej Šircelj said the government had opted for it as Slovenia was still dealing with the consequences of the epidemic.

The bill extends some measures in healthcare, and introduces compensation for those who suffered severe side effects after getting a Covid jab or receiving Covid drugs.

It brings a legal basis to limit arrivals from countries with a poor epidemiological situation, and extends last year's tourist vouchers until the end of June 2022.

Pensioners with pensions under EUR 714 a month will receive one-off aid of EUR 130, 230 or 300, while pensionless farmers over 65, the disabled and war veterans will get EUR 150. "This is not an energy voucher, which will be discussed separately," said Šircelj.

A bonus for civil protection staff and students helping out at medical organisations or care homes is also being introduced, alongside partial refunding of the lost income for the self-employed and farmers due to quarantine or force majore.

The bill also extends the period in which a worker can go on annual leave, while the Enterprise Fund will give out liquidity loans and the scheme of financial incentives is being extended into 2022.

The parliament's legal service has criticised practically all provisions, some also from the aspect of constitutionality, arguing such bills blur clarity and transparency of legislation.

The opposition tried to exclude some of the provisions the legal service deemed incompatible with the rules of procedure, but the committee's chair Robert Polnar (DeSUS) proceeded with the session, arguing he would have to exclude 75% of the amendments.

The centre-left coalition accused him of bending the rules and undermining the National Assembly, which prompted MPs from the LMŠ, SD, Left and SAB to walk out.

The committee nevertheless backed some of the opposition's proposals, foremost to omit provisions to tighten rules governing public assembly, religious freedom and some services.

The bill will be discussed at the plenary session on Monday to be passed before the end of the year.


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