The Slovenia Times

Public Sector Cut Under Fire from Unions


Responding to government plans for a 5% cut to public wage bill as part of the 2013 and 2014 budgets, the head of the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KSJS) protested against the "politics of accomplished facts", saying the government failed to consult unions when drafting the budget proposals.

Štrukelj stressed it remained unclear how the government plans to achieve the 5% cut. If the plan is to cut jobs the union's response will be "extremely sharp and clear", he warned.

Should the government insist on layoffs, the unions will not be able to accept the labour market reform, which reduces severance pay, notice periods and unemployment benefits, Štrukelj said.

In that case, the unions will do everything in its power - including calling a referendum - to prevent the law from coming into force, he stressed.

It is moreover unclear by how much the wage bill is decreased in the proposed budget. The announcement of the 5% cut apparently applies to figures from the previous plans, under which the wage will was to shrink by 12.5%, Štrukelj said, wondering whether the government was vague intentionally so it could "fish in troubled waters".

Leadership of the KSJS confederation also decided today to join efforts to call a referendum on the Slovenia Sovereign Holding and support journalists in their protest against a higher VAT on newspapers and magazines.

Criticism of the government plans came also from the opposition. Leader of the Positive Slovenia (PS) Zoran Janković said the cut amounted to a "disintegration of the system of solidarity" provided by things like public education and public healthcare.

"Finance minister Janez Šušteršič's talk about layoffs was indecent and offensive towards people working in the public sector, such as schools, kindergartens, community health centres, hospitals, police stations, libraries...and other institutions," Janković wrote in a press release today.

He was also critical of the coalition which "knows only to cut and disintegrate what is good in our society." A system of cuts cannot lead to new value and new jobs, and the government's failure to reign in the budget deficit goes to prove that, he added.

Social Democrats (SD) deputy group leader Janko Veber meanwhile said that the education sector would be hit hardest by the new round of austerity.

He also warned against layoffs and pay cuts without providing the necessary legal framework first. "If you want to cut wages you need to draft a special law in order to avoid legal procedures," he stressed.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) meanwhile called for the public sector wage bill to be optimised in a way that would improve the competitive edge of the public administration and public institutions.

The GZS is also concerned about possible knock-on effects of "offhand and linear measures" on the economy, the pension purse and the labour market. What is more, a "negative selection of staff" can do more harm than good, the chamber warned.

Justice and Public Administration Minister Senko Pličanič stressed at a press conference today that a rationalisation of the public sector, while unavoidable, does not necessarily means layoffs as savings can be made by reducing funds for night shifts, overtime and performance compensation.

Last year, performance compensations in the public sector cost the taxpayers EUR 79m, overtime EUR 78.2m and night work 15.9m. This totals 5.2% of the gross wage bill in the public sector, Pličanič explained.

The biggest savings can be made in healthcare, where EUR 98.6m went for overtime, night work and performance pay, while education and sports sector used EUR 55.4m for the purpose, he said.

The 5% cut in the wage bill will thus not cause mass layoffs in the public sector, nor will it result in a lower quality of services, Pličanič believes.

"The big story about mass layoffs turned out to be almost completely hollow," the minister said. While admitting layoffs were possible, he stressed the goal of the government was rationalisation.


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