The Slovenia Times

Police Union Rejects Deal with Govt, Sticks to Referendum


Zoran Petrovič of the Trade Union of Police Officers said in Celje that both the unions tried hard to strike a deal but that they must show responsibility and follow the demands of the people they represent. He added that many members had threatened to leave the union if the deal was signed.

Since the deal was not signed yesterday, the collecting of signatures for the referendum on the omnibus act on the balancing of public finances was officially launched on Thursday. But Labour Minister Andrej Vizjak, chief government negotiator, said the cabinet was still ready to talk if the other side was also willing.

The government is ready to look for an agreement until the end, however, Vizjak noted in his response for the STA that the time was short as the referendum initiative would need to be withdrawn by the end of May for the act to step into force on 1 June.

According to Petrovič, the unions are not trying to manipulate anyone, as they are only using a democratic tool for their legitimate goals in a legal way.

Members of the two police trade unions have been on work-to-rule strike since 18 April because they refuse to accept pay cuts which in the meantime have been agreed by the other public sector unions and included in the omnibus bill.

One of the possible further steps is a referendum and another is stepping up the strike, said Petrovič, however, he added that he hopes a solution can be found that will appease the members of the two unions and that he would not start actively collecting signatures as of yet.

On the margins of his meeting with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy in Ljubljana today, Prime Minister Janez Janša responded to the news stressing that the omnibus austerity act was too big to fail.

Because he sees broad public support for austerity measures, which he deems as balanced and as fair as possible, Janša believes the omnibus act will enter into force eventually, so the government needs no back-up plan.

Times when Slovenia thought that nothing needs to be done and that the crisis can easily be weathered are over, the prime minister noted, adding that the change in perspective is where he sees the biggest progress recently.

Education, Science, Culture and Sport Minister Žiga Turk meanwhile also told the STA that he hoped the unions would withdraw the referendum initiative, but that he was confident that the people would understand the necessity of cost-cutting and the efforts that had been put into negotiations if the referendum was to take place.

However, if a referendum is actually called, Slovenia will lose another three or four months, sinking and not working on the future and development, Turk warned.

The trade unions of other uniformed professions have spotted their opportunity in the moves of the police unions, demanding from the government to reopen talks separately on their working conditions, as they believe they cannot be left behind if police officers strike a special deal.

As they already announced they would join the police in collecting signatures for a referendum, head of the public sector union confederation Branimir Štrukelj noted that public sector trade unions bar the police unions have agreed not to take part systematically in calling a referendum on the austerity measures.

However, this does not mean union members cannot contribute their signatures if they feel like it, Štrukelj stressed.


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