The Slovenia Times

Public Sector Unions Obviosly Living on the Other Planet


The first round of talks brought no nearing in positions after the government proposed expanding the currently valid measures with additional ones to secure a further 3% cut in the public sector wage bill.

After Public Administration Minister Boris Koprivnikar presented the government's negotiating positions and Finance Minister Dušan Mramor sketched the economic situation and goals, the unions will draw up their response with the talks scheduled to resume on Wednesday.

Koprivnikar said that the negative response was to be expected and that other measures than those proposed were possible, but expects the unions to present alternatives to the measures they find unacceptable.

"The feeling is not good as the measures seem as a natural disaster that you simply have to live through," KSJS confederation boss Branimir Štrukelj said, noting that this was not a good way to start talks.

The unions told the government they could not go beyond the proposal offered by the previous government that only envisaged the extension of the validity of the measures in force through the end of 2014.

Meanwhile, all the newly proposed measures are deemed unacceptable, while the unions would probably also insist on the demand for promotions to be unfrozen, Štrukelj said.

He added that it was also not clear what staff cuts the government planned (currently agreed measure is 1% a year), while it also announced measures that were not in its negotiating positions.

Another unionist, Drago Ščernjavič wondered why the government was trying to bring the budget deficit to 2.8% of GDP in 2015 when the European Commission's demand was for 3% of GDP.

Among the measures proposed by the government are cuts to various bonuses and allowances, which is why the trade unions of the groups most affected see them as targeting specific professions.

"There can be no yielding here," the boss of the FIDES trade union of doctors and dentists Konrad Kuštrin said, adding that they had been making wage sacrifices since 2008, but there were no results.

"The state is in ever greater crisis, money is flowing out, we know what happened with banks, TEŠ," he said referring to toxic assets at banks and the suspected corruption in the EUR 1.4bn energy project.

He argued against uniform approach to the public sector by pointing to a shortage of doctors in Slovenia compared to the EU average, so they "cannot share the fate of those who may be too many or underperform".

Similarly, trade unions representing the police and soldiers believe the measures proposed to be targeted against uniformed professions, arguing they have contributed enough to fiscal consolidation.

Police Trade Union boss Radivoj Uroševič said that the measures proposed by the government could only be implemented by "declaring a state of war, abolishing trade unions and certain parties".

Meanwhile, Minister Koprivnikar rejected the suggestion that the measures were targeted at specific groups, arguing that the only goal was to reduce the wage bill by 3%.

"How we're going to achieve it and through which measures, either through cuts in additional costs or possible layoffs, is a matter of negotiation, so I cannot discuss figures at the moment," he said.

He also said the government wanted to agree measures that would reward the better performing employees so as to enable development and better quality in the public sector.


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