Thousands rally for higher pensions
Thousands of protesters gathered in Ljubljana on 1 March to demand higher pensions and access to healthcare services exactly a month after the first such rally was organised by The Voice of Pensioners, a group initiated by Pavel Rupar, a former MP for the opposition Democrats (SDS). Rupar announced a new protest in a month.
The crowd, numbering 28,000 people according to Rupar's estimate, filled the large square in front of the Parliament House. They urged an immediate 20% rise in pensions lower than €1,000 and a 15% rise in pensions amounting between €1,000 and €1,500. They argued the minimum monthly pension should be €750 and average net pension should amount to 75% of average pay in the country.
Although invited, no government member or pensioners' official representative attended the rally. The Pensioners' Association (ZDUS) distanced itself from the protest, describing its demands as unrealistic. The association also expressed disappointment because the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija decided to broadcast the rally live.
Some of the banners carried by protesters called for the government to step down, but Rupar said this was not the purpose of the rally. The rally was also attended by some anti-protesters, which caused tensions.
The anti-protesters carried banners calling the rally "an abuse of pensioners" and some called for TV Slovenija director Uroš Urbanija to be dismissed because of the live broadcast. Urbanija served as the communications chief under the previous SDS-led government.
Rupar forwarded to Prime Minister Robert Golob the demand for pensions to be adjusted to inflation. "The shameful 5.2% rise in pensions is your defeat and our plight," he said. He pointed out that the government raised social transfers by 10%. "Don't we deserve this too?" he wondered.
The protesters listed several other demands, including that the right to a holiday allowance and annual bonus equalling monthly pension be enshrined in the constitution. They set out their demands in a legislative proposal, which they took to the National Assembly.
They pointed out that many of them had worked in factories, ironworks and mines, but today they felt redundant and could barely live a life worth living. They said they were fed up with the political divide in the country.