The Slovenia Times

Anti-Austerity Protests Announced for Saturday


The rally is organised by the ZSSS union confederation, the KSJS public sector trade union confederation, KNSS Neodvisnost union association, the Student Organisation (ŠOS) and the Association of Pensioner Societies (ZDUS), which are mostly concerned about the planned austerity measures.

Extreme cuts envisaged in the 2013 and 2014 budget bills will not kick-start the economy but will merely deepen the crisis and lead to even more poverty, they believe.

The unions stress that the 5% cut in the public sector wage bill is a government attempt to comfort those who have lost their jobs in the real sector by putting teachers, nursers etc. on the street as well.

They are also very critical of the government's decision to reduce corporate income tax from 20% to 18%, which is to reduce budget revenue by EUR 200m.

The proof that this will not boost competitiveness or attract FDI is Germany, where corporate income tax is 31%.

The state should do more on the revenue side, including improving tax collection, as tax debt stands at EUR 800m, and deal the issue of tax havens, the unionists argue.

They are also worried by "experiments" such as the Slovenia Sovereign Holding and the bad bank, which they fear will enable the sell-off of the only remaining operative parts of the country's economy.

The unions feel the government has encroached on social dialogue by sending the pension and labour reforms to parliament while all key issues remain open and negotiations ongoing.

Pensioners meanwhile feel cheated, as they have been paying money into the pension purse for years and now many of them do not get enough pension to be able to survive. Half of the pensioners get less than EUR 550 a month, they say.

The young on the other hand fear they will carry the biggest burden of the crisis in the long run, stressing that many of them are already too busy making ends meet to be planning their career or family life.

Not all big union groups will take part in the rally though. Pergam and KS 90 have expressed their support for the protest but have decided not to join because the talks on the labour and pension reforms are still under way.

Pergam also said on Thursday that the budget proposals called for a stronger response and that the union would discuss the possibility of a strike next week.

Alternativa and the FIDES trade union of doctors still believe solutions can be found in the negotiations with the government. "The talks are still in an early phase and we cannot assess yet to what extent the announced measures will affect doctors and dentists," FIDES explained their decision.

The Solidarnost unions meanwhile represent mostly private sector employees, which is why they have decided against joining the protests, which they otherwise support.

Several institutions and organisations have also expressed support to the rally, including the Peace Institute NGO, the Faculty for Social Sciences (FDV), the High School Students' Organisation, University Student Organisations form Ljubljana, Maribor and the Primorsko region and the National Forum of Charities.

The Peace Institute is in particular highlighting the call for reform of financial institutions, while the FDV warns that cuts to higher education funding are a severe blow.

Employers have mostly labelled the announced protest a legitimate but an irresponsible move. They believe the initiators of the campaign are not fully aware of the situation Slovenia is currently in and that reforms and cutting of public spending are inevitable.

The government meanwhile sees the rally as a normal reaction, as part of a negotiating tactics on open issues in society and the announced cutting of the public sector wage bill.

However, it is stressing that the government's insisting on rationalisation is also normal in the given situation, which is why it is counting on the unions to be "reasonable and responsible enough" to back the necessary reforms.

The protest is being organised as part of a Europe-wide campaign which included rallies in several European cities on Wednesday.

The organisers of the protest in Slovenia have decided to hold the rally on Saturday to show responsibility, as work will not be disrupted, as well as to show that people are willing to take part in the rally on their day off.

What is going on in Europe is a new type of colonisation, where countries are no longer independent but are merely yielding to orders from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Europe needs a new treaty that will put basic human rights instead of economic rights first, the organisers of Saturday's rally say.


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