Employees at major administrative units on strike
Some 800 clerks working at Slovenia's major administrative units are on strike on 15 November to demand better pay and more staff. They are drawing attention to mounting workoverload and backlogs.
During the industrial action only urgent services are performed at seven out of Slovenia's more than 50 administrative units, but there has been some disagreement over what these are.
Employees at the units in Ljubljana, Maribor, Nova Gorica, Novo Mesto, Ptuj, Jesenice and Ruše went on strike after talks with the government failed to produce a compromise.
According to their union, they want their salaries to go up by six pay brackets and staff shortages to be addressed to reduce the workload on the existing employees.
Acute staff shortages
The trade union's head Frančišek Verk sees the strike as a logical consequence of staff shortages and the constant work overload the employees face.
He blamed the Public Administration Ministry's service that is responsible for administrative units for the situation, saying it failed to do its job properly over the past decade.
In announcing the strike the day before he said some data indicated there were between 12,000 and 30,000 cases waiting to be processed across the country's units, but exact data was not available.
Slobodan Vuk, head of the property and legal affairs department at the Ljubljana administrative unit, said the number of cases was rising on a yearly basis.
According to him, some 2,300 people are employed at the country's 56 units. The number of administrative cases rose to 1.8 million last year from 1.2 million in 2019.
Talking about problems at the Ljubljana administrative unit, the head of the in-house trade union Dragan Stanković said many employees were leaving for better-paid jobs.
In 2010, the unit employed 349 clerks working on 162,024 administrative cases, while currently 280 employees are working on 262,129 cases, he illustrated.
One of the reasons for rising workload is an increasing number of foreigners who need administrative services, Verk said.
This was confirmed by Delavska Setovalnica, an NGO helping mostly foreign workers, which said the management of the Ljubljana unit told them they received an average of 200 applications related to foreigner status a day alone, as well as new 400-500 email requests daily and at times up to 800 documents a day, "which is totally unmanageable if you want to keep document registration up to date".
Complaints of pressure
Verk regretted that more units did not join the strike. "This is most likely because they fear sanctions, while others were dissuaded by the threat made by Finance Minister Klemen Boštjančič as a stand-in for public administration minister that the strike will not be paid," Verk said.
After meeting the union the day before, the minister said he would prefer if there was no strike but he in a way understood it as a cry for help so that after long years the issue should start getting solved.
Verk complained that the list of urgent services issued by the ministry's service for the duration of the strike was too extensive. "If we wanted to do all this, we'd need at least 3,000 to 4,000 employees at each unit."
The trade union's secretary Renato Romič talked about "unacceptable pressure" on those on strike at some of the units and of "abuse of urgent task delegation".
System in need of reform
The problem of shortages and low pay at administrative units was to be tackled as part of the public sector wage system reform, which has been in limbo.
Earlier this year, the Public Administration put forward a proposal to reorganise the system of administrative units, which was met with strong criticism.
Commenting on the strike, the newspaper Dnevnik expressed scepticism that the government will be able to carry out the changes needed to make the system more efficient.
The paper does not think higher wages and more staff will end the chaos and long waiting times at administrative units. Instead the paper called for digitalisation.