Slovenia: Latest working life developments – Q4 2017

Positive changes to labour market legislation for the unemployed, amendments to family legislation for fathers, and the announcement of strikes by public sector trade unions for 2018 are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Slovenia in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Positive changes in labour market legislation for the unemployed

The Slovenian National Assembly made several changes to labour market legislation in the fourth quarter of 2017, one of which entails using financial incentives to activate unemployed people with only primary or secondary education. Eligible adults who find full-time employment will be able to receive 20% of their last paid unemployment benefit for up to 12 months after their full-time employment begins or until the end of the allocated right.

Other labour market amendments include stricter rules regarding the following:

  • registering with the Employment Service of Slovenia (ZRSZ) in case of job loss
  • the abolition of voluntary traineeship
  • making it easier to employ certain categories of foreign workers (sportsmen and workers posted for training)

Under the new legislation, employees who fail to register with the ZRSZ within three working days of their dismissal will face reductions in the amount of their wage compensation (from 60% to 80% of their basic wage for the first three months, but no less than €350).

Other amendments include an incentive for companies to take on older unemployed people, which would be in the form of a temporary exemption from the payment of employer contributions. Legislation amending the Employment, Self-employment and Work of Aliens Act also introduces a rule that only foreign workers currently in receipt of a full-time job offer will be entitled to a work permit in Slovenia.

Amendments to family policy regulation to benefit fathers

A change in family legislation provides fathers with 15 additional paid days of paternity leave and abolishes unpaid paternity leave. Until now, paternal leave amounted to a total of 90 days, 15 in the form of a full absence from work (until the age of 6 months of the child) and 75 days until the child is three years old. The father received 90% of his average earnings for the past year for only 15 days of his paternity leave. From 2018 on, fathers will receive paid paternal leave for 30 days (at the same rate of 90%); 15 days must be taken during the first six months after the birth and 15 days are allowed for the childcare leave until the child finishes their first year of primary school (at around six years of age).

With the abolition of austerity measures, an additional 50,000 children will be entitled to receive child allowance, while the childbirth allowance will become a universal right (the allowance is a single payment of €280 made when the income per family member does not exceed 64% of the average pay in Slovenia).

Public sector trade unions announce wave of strikes

At the end of 2016, the social partners agreed to abolish all austerity measures for public sector employees in 2017. However, after strike action, and in separate negotiations with the government, doctors were the only trade unions to sign an agreement on wage increaseses (along with police officers). The demands of other public sector trade unions for higher wages in recent months then started to intensify.

The negotiating group of representative public sector unions (PSRSJS) announced a strike to take place on 24 January 2018 to fight for the protection of the unified public sector pay system. So far, 15 out of 28 public sector trade unions have decided to join the strike, among them unions representing veterinaries, pharmacists, employees in higher education, research workers, social workers, public bus drivers, cultural and artistic workers, and workers at the Ministry of Defence. The group also includes The Confederation of New Trade Unions of Slovenia ‘Independence’ (KNSS ‘Independence’).

The Police Trade Union of Slovenia (PSS) and the Trade Union of Police Officers of Slovenia (SPS) also announced a strike for 12 February 2018, claiming the government is violating the agreement signed to end last year’s strike. Furthermore, two trade unions of employees in healthcare and social care have announced a two-hour token strike for 13 February, action which they plan to step up unless the government responds to their demands for higher pay and better working conditions.

Slovenian teachers in the Education, Science and Culture Trade Union of Slovenia (SVIZ) also plan to organise a strike over pay on 14 February. According to the union’s Secretary-General, this could be the largest demonstration in the public sector since Slovenia gained independence. The Minister of Public Administration, Boris Koprivnikar, estimates that trade union demands for wage increases would cost Slovenia more than €500 million.

Trade unions have a number of demands:

  • the maintenance of the unified wage system
  • the abolition of austerity measures
  • an increase in wages for the lowest-paid public employees

Business leaders, however, have called on the government not to increase public sector pay but to reduce labour taxes, which would lead to a net pay increase for the private and public sectors.

Commentary

Public sector trade unions have announced that 2018 will be the year of fighting for higher wages in the public sector. The latest negotiations with the government on the abolition of wage anomalies (this refers to the 26th salary bracket) for public employees have not ended in an agreement, with trade unions consequently announcing a wave of strikes for January 2018.

Among the main issues are wage increases for doctors, which could destroy wage ratios in the single public sector wage system. The unions want wage increases for all public servants and the government has offered to fund this with €8.4 million, but dialogue with the unions failed. Mr Koprivnikar has proposed negotiating with each public sector trade union individually to try to reach an agreement before the strikes begin.

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