The Slovenia Times

Social dialogue revived after a year

Representatives of trade unions, employers and the government on the Economic and Social Council. Photo: Bor Slana/STA

Representatives of employers, trade unions and the government have resumed social dialogue on the Economic and Social Council (ESS) almost a year after it broke down as the employers walked out in protest.

Meeting for the first session since July last year, the three social partners signed a declaration to respect and encourage social dialogue on 28 June, hailing resumption of the tripartite dialogue.

Labour Minister Luka Mesec said restarting the work of the country's main industrial relations forum was not an easy task and was made possible by the declaration.

The document is to pave the way for more effective dialogue and faster resolution of disputes between the social partners by clarifying the rules on the forum's work.

"It also makes it possible for the ESS to get involved in the government's work at the stage when blueprints of laws are prepared, rather than after the laws have been drawn up," the minister said.

Lidija Jerkič, the head of the country's largest trade union association, ZSSS, hailed the declaration, in particular the dispute resolution mechanism.

"Whether someone violates social dialogue rules is open to interpretation. It is only right to define at least the basic elements so that it is easier for us to move forward, rather than worrying about whether we are quitting or getting back in," she said.

Blaž Cvar, the head of the Chamber of Trade Crafts and Small Business, was optimistic about the ESS becoming functional again.

"This does not mean that debate will be up to one side alone," he said, expressing the hope that legislative solutions will in the future be sought without rules being broken.

Business associations quit the ESS in July last year, after the government decided to push ahead with major reform proposals on long-term care and labour relationships despite their opposition.

Set up 30 years ago, the ESS is the main forum for social dialogue in Slovenia where employers and trade unions contribute their inputs on relevant legislative proposals put forward by the government to reach a compromise before the proposals are subjected to further stages of the legislative process.

The agenda of the first session after the long hiatus included proposals on measures in healthcare, tax tweaks and changes to contentious rules on work time records that kicked in in November last year.

Ahead of the session, employer organisations issued a joint statement to welcome the government's decision to respect the rules on the ESS, "which it has systematically broken in the past".


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