Clerks strike over pay, work conditions
Clerks at the majority of Slovenia's administrative units, which provide services such as the issue of passports and building permits, went on strike on 29 January demanding better pay and more staff to cope with a surging number of cases, in what is just the latest industrial action in the public sector amidst pay negotiations with the government.
The strike is taking place at 41 of the country's 58 units. While 26, including the biggest cities of Ljubljana and Maribor, will be on strike for three days, the remaining 15 will stop work only for one day. Only basis services will be available for the duration of the strike.
As many as 85% of employees at administrative units in Slovenia, which employ nearly 2,340 clerks, joined the action, according to trade union leader Frančišek Verk.
Several administrative units had already staged a strike on 15 November voicing the same demands, but Verk said that no progress had been made since.
He said workers at administrative units were the most poorly paid state administration staff. At the start of their careers, clerks are four brackets below the minimum wage, and university graduates are hardly any better off.
The government sent the Trade Union of State Bodies a proposal in a bid to avert the strike last week, but Verk said it would solve practically no problem.
The government also insists on addressing their qualms as part of the ongoing talks on a public sector pay reform, which the trade union says is not acceptable due to the acute problems they face.
Administrative units have struggled with understaffing for years, in particular due to complex and lengthy procedures for foreigners, which has led to complaints by business struggling to recruit foreign workers.
Most of the foreigner applications are processed in Ljubljana, by far the biggest administrative unit in the country, but several months ago some cases were shifted over to other units to ease the pressure.
The government also offered to hire five new clerks in Ljubljana, but Verk said this was not enough since the backlog there was 14,000 cases.
This is just another in a wave of strikes hitting the country; doctors and dentists started theirs on 15 January, judges were on strike between 10 and 24 January, and prosecutors will stage a one-day strike on 31 January.
All of these strikes are putting huge pressure on the government, which is increasingly unpopular due to a series of scandals over the recent months that led to a mini cabinet reshuffle.
The government is reluctant to increase wages in a piecemeal way or to give the entire sector wages that are too generous given the huge outlays on post-flood reconstruction that have led to a surging budget deficit.