The Slovenia Times

Nurses take to streets to demand fair wages

Health & MedicinePolitics

Healthcare staff staged a rally in Ljubljana on 22 February to demand elimination of pay injustices and equal treatment of all groups of public employees amid simmering discontent in the public sector.

The rally, organised by the Trade Union of Healthcare Workers, comes less than a week after a similar protest was staged by professional .

Several hundred nurses, midwives, paramedics, ambulance workers and care staff gathered in the square in front of the Parliament House before heading towards the government building, calling for fair pay for their hard work.

They carried banners reading "Empathy won't pay nurses' bills" and "Heroes for Those Who Need Us, Fools for the Government", expressing discontent with loud boos and whistles. Ambulance drivers put the lights and sirens on.

They are unhappy because in December the government agreed to raise doctors' pay but excluded them, arguing that they had received a rise in November 2021. They complained of being understaffed and overworked. "I work for three," one nurse said.

The union's head Slavica Mencinger said they were not willing to wait for a rise until the public sector pay system is reformed, as the government has been suggesting.

Some of the healthcare staff obtained a rise of one to two wage brackets back in 2021, whereas those in December were granted a four-bracket rise. The union now demands the difference.

Although enough nurses finish their studies to fill the vacancies, their starting salary is at or below the minimum wage or less, which is why many leave for other jobs, Mencinger said.

The unionists criticised Health Minister Danijel Bešič Loredan for saying that all issues would be addressed at the negotiating table. They have been talking for "weeks and months, but arrived nowhere", the union's secretary general Marjan Meglič said.

Speaking ahead of the rally, the minister said the government was aware of the issues they were raising, but "we don't see nurses, doctors and the other staff as isolated stakeholders but as a whole".

As in the case of firefighters, the Public Administration Ministry labelled the protest unwarranted. It said average nurse pay rose by 37% to 45% from 2015 to 2022 and the number of nurses increased by around 2,800 in that period.

Several other groups of public employees are unhappy with their wages but some suspended planned rallies or strikes as talks with the government continue. The teachers' union SVIZ has announced it will stage a strike on 13 April unless they sign agreement with the government by 8 March to settle the demands they made during a strike a year ago.


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