Slovenian doctors have decided to go on strike in January, unhappy because the government offered junior doctors much more substantial pay rises than their senior colleagues and mentors.
The country’s largest union of doctors and dentists Fides announced the strike on 8 December, a day after the government and trade unions representing healthcare and social care staff initialled a pay rise deal that also covers doctors.
The government has offered a 20% pay rise to junior doctors and dentists but only 8% to doctors in the highest pay brackets, while Fides demanded an across-the-board rise, most recently of 20%.
Fides opted for strike along with two smaller unions representing GPs and dentists, after a survey showed its members are unhappy with the government’s pay offer.
They believe it would only create further pay disparities instead of resolving them. These emerged after nurses and care home staff negotiated higher pay more than a year ago.
Fides was irked in particular about what they see as an unfair treatment of doctors who they say perform 44% of the work in terms of hours or even 70-80% taking into account mentoring and advice they provide to their junior colleagues.
“This unfair treatment of colleagues that have been pushing healthcare forward for 30 years, maintaining Slovenian medicine at the highest level … is unacceptable,” said Fides official Gregor Zemljič.
Doctors are also unhappy with Health Minister Danijel Bešič Loredan’s attitude after it transpired that he tried to pressure Fides into accepting the government’s offer by making threats in a phone call with Zemljič.
In response, the government insisted that its offer was final. Public Administration Minister Sanja Ajanović Hovnik even suggested doctors “lost touch with reality”.
She said the government decided to give a higher rise to young doctors because their salaries are low indeed, while top earning doctors will still get a 8% rise.
According to the newspaper Delo, doctors in speciality training are to get a rise of an average €662 gross a month, while senior consultants are to receive a rise of €275.
Even if they oppose such pay rises, doctors’ salaries are set to increase in January and April under a pay deal initialled for healthcare and social care.
Not all the unions have initialled it and the deal is yet to be signed, but it is enough for one of the unions representing healthcare and social care whose membership includes doctors to sign it.
The pay deal, which was initialled on 7 December, is valued at €40 million. Minister Ajanović Hovnik underscored that it will take effect even without Fides’s signature.
The deal also meets Fides’s long-standing demand by proposing to scrap the pay ceiling for doctors in the top wage bracket who earn about €4,140 gross a month. This will happen in April when their salaries go up as well.
The Nursing Care Trade Union did not initial the agreement either because nurses who received a salary raise in November 2021 will not get another one now.
Health Minister Danijel Bešič Loredan called the agreement a big step forward but said the government could not satisfy everybody’s wishes.
Ajanović Hovnik noted the deal treats the sector as a whole. “In the past there were too many negotiations in which certain professional groups with more power were able to achieve more than others.”
She expects talks on a comprehensive public pay system overhaul to start in January.