Police stepping up strike with work-to-rule

Ljubljana – One of Slovenia’s two police trade unions, whose members have been on strike since 11 January, has announced it is stepping up the action with a three hour work-to-rule at various locations across the country on Friday.

“By stepping up strike activities in the form of consistent performance of our duties, we want to show the government it is doing a big mistake underestimating police staff and our justified demands,” the PSS union said in a written statement.

The union said its members would also perform all the duties related to the enforcing of coronavirus restrictions, in order to ensure a higher level of public health safety.

“For potential inconveniences or ill mood due to the enforcement of the measures, people should turn directly to the government, which has adopted the measures,” the union said, adding the action was but a “prelude to a broader stepping up of the strike”.

Commenting on the situation on the ground in the evening, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs assessed the strike was being conducted correctly. He had no information of officers exaggerating with their checks.

Addressing the parliamentary Home Affairs Committee, which has been debating for hours his decision to publicly release pay data of police force and ministry employees, Hojs said he expected the government to take its position on the strike demands soon.

He believes agreement could have been reached with the union already if it did not demand a two-bracket pay rise for all. He believes those in the lower pay brackets should get more and top earners less.

He repeated his position that the strike was politically motivated and ill timed, telling MPs that average gross pay in the police force last year was EUR 2,586 and average gross pay of police officers in 5th and 6th bracket EUR 2,412, which compares to national average of EUR 2,028.

The General Police Administration said earlier that “police officers are being issued concrete duties by unit heads rather than their union” and police could not choose whether to perform obligatory duties or not.

The police force leadership said they trusted union representatives their strike activities would not affect people or their safety directly.

While respecting the employees’ right to strike, they expect the union and employees to “fulfil the duties prescribed by law consistently. They have a duty to perform them timely, efficiently and in line with the instructions from their superiors”.

The union said Prime Minister Janez Janša had expressed his expectation for strict enforcement of measures to contain the coronavirus epidemic, which they would like to contribute to to the best of their abilities, “because the government is truly inefficient and incapable of protecting the citizens”.

The union said the government should set an example, rather than the other way around. “Police officers can no longer tolerate that as the citizens expect seriousness, responsibility and a positive attitude of us as well, which they are missing with the incumbent government.”

The PSS said the government and Interior Minister Aleš Hojs showed no willingness to reach an agreement on strike demands, the gist of which is securing higher pay in accordance with a 2018 agreement that ended a previous strike.

The other police trade union, SPS, has not joined the strike despite welcoming three of four strike demands on the grounds that it would not be appropriate to go on strike considering the coronavirus crisis.