The Slovenia Times

Social Partners Expected to Make a Breakthrough in 2015


The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) hopes that social dialogue in the new year will be more constructive and intensive, according to GZS executive director for social dialogue Tatjana Čerin.

She says that awareness about the necessity of social dialogue is a condition for a better future for all, adding that one of the chamber's priorities is to push for labour market changes.

The GZS wants the social partners to find a solution to a more adequate taxation of the existing forms of work, while the idea about capping social security contributions by employers is still alive, according to her.

Čerin would like to see a debate about the possibility to take additional measures to reduce labour costs and encourage employment of highly-qualified workforce and economic competitiveness without undermining the social situation of employees with low income.

"Proposals for systemic reforms or at least necessary changes in the health, pension and disability insurance systems, and in the public sector should also be put on the table as soon as possible," she adds.

The Association of Employers (ZDS) also believes that 2015 will be a make-or-break year for social dialogue. Sustainable solutions for economic growth and a solid welfare state can only be a product of close cooperation and agreement between the social partners, its secretary general Jože Smole says.

The association would like to see a favourable business environment and lower taxes and other burdens on the economy to be put at the forefront of social dialogue, according to Smole.

On the other hand, the boss of the country's biggest trade union confederation hopes that politicians will not focus only on the problems faced by banks, public finances and employers or on competitiveness and profit.

"They should be aware that the final goal of all policies is providing a better life to the people," Dušan Semolič of the ZSSS has told the STA.

According to him, Slovenia's competitiveness does not depend only on credit ratings, interest rates and labour cost-cutting, but also on public health and education and the well-being of workers.

Semolič calls for a change in mindset so as to abandon the "policy of extreme austerity", which he believes is not a good path to take. Not only does it hurt people, it also stifles domestic demand and consumption that could otherwise significantly contribute to economic growth, he says.

Economic growth should be translated into quality jobs for the unemployed and young people, which requires various measures to be taken, including measures for re-industrialisation, he believes.

Branimir Štrukelj of the public sector trade union confederation KSJS agrees that Slovenia should throw away the logic of austerity and the belief that "problems can be solved by reducing the quality of our lives".

Štrukelj also agrees that certain structural reforms are necessary, for example in healthcare, but the problem is that diametrically opposing views about the future of Slovenia's healthcare are being presented.

"On the one hand, there is the pronounced interest of private capital to attach itself to public funds, and on the other, there is the interest of those who claim that public healthcare should be strengthened as an extremely important element of welfare state," he says.

According to Štrukelj, the public sector is bracing for some "traumatic" changes in 2015, including changes to the public sector wage system act and changes that could affect the funding of public institutes and allow their commercialisation.

The government is meanwhile drafting legislative changes in the field of social partnership. The legislation covering representation of trade unions and collective bargaining agreements has remained intact since the 1990s, according to Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Minister Anja Kopač Mrak.

At the moment, as many as 38 public sector trade unions have the status of a representative trade union, meaning that they can negotiate with the government and consequently block talks.

While the government says this sometimes makes talks very difficult and results in undue delays, some public sector trade unions agree that it would make sense to bring the number down by means of uniting some of the unions.

Head of one of two negotiations teams for the public sector Drago Ščernjavič says the trade unions could form a kind of a consultative body representing all of them. Such a council could for instance form negotiating positions, give powers to negotiators, etc.


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