Govt adopts negotiating position for pay talks with doctors

Medical office - middle-aged male doctor greeting patient, shaking hands.

Ljubljana – The government adopted on Thursday its negotiating position for pay talks with trade unions representing medical doctors, estimated at EUR 111.57 million annually. The negotiating position says that the top pay bracket for doctors could rise by six brackets to the 63rd under the public sector pay system.

The legal basis for changing the collective bargaining agreement for doctors and dentists was adopted at the end of 2021 with the last coronavirus relief package.

The government said in a press release after its session that the pay ceiling for doctors would be raised to strike a balance with nurses, whose pay increased last year.

November’s wage deal between the government and the trade unions representing nursing and care staff promoted FIDES, the powerful doctors’ union, to demand higher pay for doctors, arguing the deal with nurses had upset the wage balance with doctors.

At the moment the highest pay bracket for doctors is the 57th, while FIDES has campaigned for some time to extract doctors from the public sector pay system altogether.

The government said that the new arrangement with doctors would implement one of the doctors’ strike demands from 2016.

It quoted part of the agreement reached to end the strike which says the government pledged to draft changes to the public sector pay system act to eliminate the ceiling of the 57th bracket by 1 December 2016 at the latest.

As the newspaper Delo recently reported, 35% of all doctors are now in the 57th bracket while the average doctor’s monthly pay in 2021 was EUR 4,960 gross.

With the new measures, their pay could increase by around 25%, as the base pay in the 57th bracket is EUR 3,960 gross but EUR 5,010 in the 63rd.

Part of the negotiating position adopted today is also a proposal of new jobs after changes to the medical service act have introduced a new institute – a basic licence, which a doctor will receive upon passing the expert exam enabling them to start working immediately in a bid to cope with a shortage of doctors.

The Health Ministry said this was also one of the points from the 2016 strike deal reached with FIDES.

FIDES president Konrad Kuštrin told the STA that the trade union expected the talks to begin soon and wrap up before the end of the month, adding they would present their negotiating position when the talks start.

He finds it urgent to encourage young as well as experienced doctors to stay in the public healthcare system and in Slovenia by raising their pay.

At a recent FIDES conference, the chief committee was tasked with “using all means of trade unionist pressure that would be necessary to preserve an accessible and efficient public healthcare system”, Kuštrin said in a written statement for the STA.

The European Commission has assessed Slovenia is at least 1,000 doctors short to close the gap to the EU average, and a recent survey by the Slovenian Medical Chamber shows 50% of Slovenian doctors are considering leaving the public healthcare system.

To prevent this, the possibility that opened up with the last coronavirus relief package should be tapped into “to give doctors a signal that the state appreciates and respects them as indispensable providers of healthcare”.

On the other hand, the government did not adopt a negotiating position to continue the November talks with nurses and care staff, which were to resume by 15 January.