On Labour Day, unions critical of govt’s attitude to social dialogue

Ljubljana – President Borut Pahor hosted a Labour Day reception on Saturday at which the head of the ZSSS trade union association Lidija Jerkič said the holiday should be an opportunity to reflect on workers’ rights, and assessed that the government was ignoring social dialogue with trade unions. Many officials also marked the holiday with their messages.

“Labour Day is one of the rare holidays that the state does not mark publicly with national ceremonies,” Jerkič noted at the ceremony in Presidential Palace.

She assessed that the “actual politics fails to remember its largest electorate – workers – on the most important holiday, 1 May”, and that such an attitude to workers was being showed during the entire year.

“Trade unions as representatives of employees and its membership in this country have been faced in the past year with a number of events that in a way means ignoring the content of the work of trade unions and workers’ rights.”

Jerkič was critical of what unions perceive as a lack of social dialogue related to the national recovery and resilience plan, the bill on national demographic fund and new tax reforms, noting that this undermines the foundations of welfare state.

She noted that the ZSSS dedicated this year’s International Workers’ Day to job security in all its forms, which means appropriate pay, decent work, permanence of employment and better regulation of occupational diseases.

On the occasion, President Pahor called for social dialogue as one of the most important pillars of successful and fair recovery after the Covid-19 crisis.

“Long-term decisions related to the labour market and status of the working class must not be adopted without agreement as part of social dialogue,” he added.

Pahor said it was important to continue to strive to preserve and develop welfare state, as its scope was a matter of decisions by politics in cooperation with social partners, and there were traps that should be avoided.

“It is a matter of social cohesion, which is very important and sensitive, and a matter of political cohesion and unity,” the president said, expressing the hope that the health crisis would end as soon as possible.

In his message for Labour Day, Prime Minister Janez Janša meanwhile stressed that the government’s objective was to create conditions for decent work for decent pay for all able-bodied people.

“Everybody who works must earn enough for decent living, for themselves and those they support. Every work, be it in an employment relationship or precarious work, must enjoy legal protection.”

Janez Cigler Kralj, the minister of labour, family, social affairs and equal opportunities, said in his statement that work would be the supporting pillar of the new reality after the pandemic.

At the same time, “everybody finds that work is a great virtue and that the vast majority of people want to work and thus contribute to the common good”.

Parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič said in his message that the holiday had not lost its historical importance even in the digital age, adding that the issue of workers’ rights had remained topical.

“Globalisation, the economic and social progress, global warming, natural disasters, economic crises, and in the past year also the Covid-19 epidemic, have irreversibly changed the concept of work and employment,” he added.

Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said on Twitter that the economy would be able to develop only if company managements were aware of the value of their workers, if they paid them fairly and reward the most productive ones.

Defence Minister Matej Tonin said on Facebook that, for Christian democrats, work was a value that provides people with dignity and pride. As a society we can also see opportunity in change and boost our knowledge, he added.

Opposition Left coordinator Luka Mesec noted that the ever longer working hours, agency and precarious work, and poorly paid work and loss of free time was an image of work in the 21st century. Labour Day reminds us that things could be different.

Social Democrats (SD) president and MEP Tanja Fajon said that the holiday was a reminder that fight for workers’ rights in the 21st century was only beginning.

The opposition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) said that it was possible to secure “appropriate wages, decent pensions, modern public education and available public healthcare by means of a successful, innovative economy.”