The Slovenia Times

Doctors announce strike to exit public sector pay system

Health & Medicine

Ljubljana - Slovenian doctors have announced a general strike starting on 19 October unless the government concedes to their long-standing demand that they be excluded from the uniform pay system in the public sector and create a separate pay system for the profession.

The decision was reached last night at an annual conference of Fides, the trade union of doctors and dentists, after it was announced that almost 3,500 members of the union had endorsed the motion that doctors should no longer be a part of the public sector pay system.

"Doctors have had enough of the relentless disintegration of public healthcare, the fateful deterioration in the accessibility of services, of eking out a living in the failed mechanism that determines public sector pay," the union said.

During the strike doctors will be at work but will perform only services whose omission would cause irreparable damage to health or death. They expect 100% pay for the duration of the strike.

Fides expects higher pay for doctors that will "stop the flight of doctors and dentists from public health institutions and thus prevent the looming disaster that is the collapse of public healthcare."

Public sector trade unions as a whole are currently in pay negotiations with the government and the latest reports from the talks suggest the two sides are close to an agreement that would provide 4.5% pay rises across the board plus extra money to eliminate disparities.

Fides is unhappy with the outcome. Union president Konrad Kuštrin said the government was promising to eliminate pay disparities for young doctors, but there was no talk about specialists, nor of an increase in the pay ceiling for doctors, another long-standing wish of the union.

The union demands that the government immediately table legislative changes under which doctors would be excluded from the single pay system. Kuštrin said this would form the basis for negotiations on pay brackets.

The expectation is that salaries will be "multiples of the average pay". "We probably all agree that a specialist with twenty years of work experience deserves three times the average wage," Kuštrin said.

Him and other doctor representatives said the problem was not just salaries but also work overload and other issues in healthcare.

The strike was also backed by the group representing young doctors. "We demand stabilisation of public healthcare institutions by creating competitive working conditions, including a correction of base pay," they said in a press release.

They said the Slovenian healthcare system was following in the footsteps of those in Romania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and North Macedonia, where doctors were quitting the public system to join private practices or go abroad because of the poor working conditions.

The union's demands were also endorsed by Bojana Beović, the head of the Medical Chamber, who said strike was only a last resort if agreement was not reached. The minister promised health reform to follow in 2024, which she finds "absolutely too late".

Commenting on the strike announcement today, Health Minister Danijel Bešič Loredan said the government was not in favour of extracting doctors or any other group from the single public sector pay system. He nevertheless invited Fides to a meeting next Tuesday.

However, Kuštrin told reporters Fides would not attend Tuesday's talks.

Doctors are by far the best paid employees in the public sector overall, mostly on account of bonuses for seniority and adverse work conditions, but this is not the case for doctors who are just starting their careers.


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