The Slovenia Times

Unions Announce Protests against Austerity Measures


Convinced that the proposed austerity measures are not the way to go, they announced protests for November. The exact date will be known when it becomes clear which unions will join the campaign.

Speaking at a press conference in Ljubljana, ZSSS head Dušan Semolič said unions were foremost concerned because the government had decided to send the pension reform to parliament before harmonising it with the social partners.

The parliamentary procedure has its own logic and rules which do not take into consideration social dialogue, Semolič said, pointing to time pressure.

The government adopted the proposal for a reform of the pension system last Wednesday but PM Janez Janša promised talks with social partners would continue while the motion goes through parliament.

Semolič also noted that politicians had been clear in stating that both the pension reform and the reform of the labour market needed to be passed by the end of the year even if no agreement was reached.

This is why unions cannot stand by and wait for December hoping that politicians will take into account their key remarks. "We must be alert," he said.

The unions nevertheless plan to continue the talks with the government but they pledge to "defend the interests of our members with all means".

Semolič said that both reforms still had many open issues. Touching on the labour reform, he underlined the temporary work forms designed for older people and the unemployed, which he believes will push the elderly further into poverty.

Meanwhile, the pension reform is not clear on the calculation of pension and the unions fear they will be lower than they are today, Semolič said. Details on the transitional period, bonuses and other issues are not clear either.

He also criticized several other government measures, highlighting "the experiments such as the Slovenia Sovereign Holding and the bad bank".

Semolič was also critical of the new social legislation, which according to him will surely increase poverty.

This, coupled with the budget bills for the next two years which will cut the wage bill for public sector employees, is putting Slovenia on the "wrong path" and "creates a spiral leading to even greater poverty". Fear of future and the lack of potential in the country is pushing the young out of Slovenia, he warned.

The unionist is also angered by the fact that the government is focusing on expenditure, and the cutting of workers' rights, the rights of public sector employees and pensioners while lowering the tax on profit for companies.

Cutting this tax from 20% to 18% will decrease budget revenue by EUR 200m this year, he said, adding that the state should instead exercise more oversight over tax collection and the paying off of the tax debt, which exceeds EUR 800m.

In order for Slovenia to become more competitive, the government should bet on the know-how, innovation, safe and healthy jobs, and the respect for human rights and collective bargaining agreements, he said.

The exact date of the protest the ZSSS plans to organise should be known in the coming days after the confederation talks to other unions that might join the campaign. According to the online edition of the daily Večer, the protests are to be held on 17 November.

Chief public sector unionist Branimir Štrukelj also recently announced protests against government measures and he confirmed this today, but he said it was not yet clear whether public sector unions would join the ZSSS.

Other unions which attended today's talks on pension reform, were more reserved, saying that since negotiations were still ongoing it was to early to speak of protests.


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