The Slovenia Times

Firefighters rally for better pay

Firefightershold a rally in the centre of Ljubljana to demand higher pay. Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

Flares, blasts and loud chants flooded the capital Ljubljana on 16 February as professional firefighters from all over the country gathered for one of the largest protests against the current government to date to call for significantly higher pay, a demand that the government says is unwarranted.

Dressed in uniforms, the firefighters gathered in front of Parliament House before marching towards the government headquarters, holding banners with messages such as "Cancer for Minimum Wage," "Heroes to the People and Idiots to You" and "All We Want Is a Happy End," and with cartoonish effigies of senior government officials.

The firefighters are "angry at decision-makers, who have been making fools out of us for over a year and a half," said secretary-general of the Trade Union of Professional Firefighters David Švarc.

Calling for better work conditions and a pay rise by eight brackets in the existing public sector pay system, the union's former president Aleksander Ogrizek said that he was disappointed with the government's work, noting that top officials only show interest in firefighters when they need them.

He urged the government to start negotiations with the union right away and said that professional firefighters receiving minimum wage was "abominable".

Several senior officials, including Public Administration Minister Sanja Ajanović Hovnik and Defence Minister Marjan Šarec came to meet the firefighters, but the government disputes their claims about low pay.

Data released by the government shows professional firefighters are one of the top earners in the public sector, their pay having increased by roughly a third since 2015, a pace far faster than in some other segments of the public sector.

If pay increased by eight brackets as they demand, that would mean their wages would be 35% higher than those of police officers and wage disparities between comparable groups would deepen. "We see the firefighters' demands as unjustified," the government said.


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