The Slovenia Times

Months-long strike at administrative units over

A throng of people waiting to enter the Ljubljana Administrative Unit during a strike. Photo: STA

Slovenia's administrative units will resume their business as usual after months on strike on 8 July as trade unions representing the staff and the government signed a deal to end the stand-off.

Understaffed, underpaid and faced with huge work loads and piling backlogs, staff at most administrative units started regular one-day weekly strikes in March before escalating to an all-out industrial action in mid-May after failing to have their demands for better pay and extra staff met.

This made services such as getting a passport, driver's licence or work and residence permits for foreigners increasingly hard to access and led to chaotic scenes at the country's busiest unit in Ljubljana as people started queuing in the wee hours in the hope of applying for their papers that day.

Booking appointments online was no longer possible, and the public broadcaster TV Slovenija aired footage of customers running and scrambling before dawn to get the best spot in the queue as those who came later were mostly told they were unlikely to be served that day.

Being in the middle of public sector pay reform talks, the government had been adamant not to make any separate deal with the clerks, instead issuing a new list of urgent tasks to be performed even during the strike, as well as replacing the head of the Ljubljana administrative unit.

This made those on strike the more determined, but discontent among the public has been mounting and representatives of businesses have been issuing warnings of the damage done due to further delays in the issuance of development permits, one of the issues most often raised as a drag on the Slovenian economy.

It was against this backdrop that a deal was finally hammered out and signed on 5 July. It entails bonuses for increased workload and reduction of backlogs. The agreement also explicitly states that workers will be paid for the time they were on strike.

Public Administration Minister Franc Props expressed satisfaction that an agreement had been reached and thanked the negotiators on both sides. He said activities to implement the deal would start immediately.

On behalf of the employees, the agreement was signed by Frančišek Verk, the head of the Trade Union of State Bodies, and Dragan Stanković, the head of the Trade Union of Administrative Units.

"Administrative units are fundamental bodies that implement laws and public authority of the state in relation to individuals and legal entities, they are one of the systems in the state administration that carry the heaviest burden," Verk said, hailing the deal.

Stanković, too, was happy that the strike would end, apologising again "to all users of administrative unit services for the inconvenience caused by the strike".

To alleviate the workload of the busiest units, the government put forward legislative changes that will temporarily suspend territorial jurisdiction in issuing residence and work permits to foreign citizens.

In addition, workers from abroad will be able to start working as soon as they file their work permit form, while procedure will continue at the administrative unit until the final decision is issued. The changes are expected to be passed in parliament next week with provisions in effect until the end of September.

Procedures related to foreigners account for the bulk of pending cases at the units, which Verk has indicated go into tens of thousands.


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