The Trade Union of Police Officers (Sindikat policistov Slovenije – referred to as SPS) has published a public letter, in which it informed the media and the other union, the Police Union of Slovenia (Policijski sindikat Slovenije – referred to as PSS), which invited them to join the PSS in the strike against the Government, that they will not take part in the strike. They expressed satisfaction with the fact that as many as three of the four strike requirements are requirements that the SPS has been defending for quite some time, and the PSS has opposed so far. We are publishing the Trade Union of Police Officers’ letter in its entirety below.
Dear members of the Police Union of Slovenia!
On the 22nd of December 2020, we received your e-mail and the memorandum PSS-15 / 2020-325 (Decision on the announcement of the PSS strike), in which you invite us to join the strike of the police employees. We would like to inform you that we have taken a closer look at your four strike requirements, and we are pleased to note that with your requirements, you fully follow the proposed solutions, which all of us at the Trade Union of Police Officers have been defending for a long time, and which you have been opposing so far, and wrote a number of insulting notices at the expense of the SPS and even accused us of causing harm to the police officers under political pressure. Given that in the strike requirements one, two and three, you fully summarise the proposals of the SPS, which you have strongly opposed so far, we would like to inform you that we fully agree with them. Regarding the requirement number four, however, we find that, in our opinion, this is a move that could be understood as politically motivated, from which we completely distance ourselves. In this letter, we will provide individual explanations for the requirements (for better understanding, we named them and summarised the gist of each one).
Requirement no. 1: Revocation of the decision of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia, regarding the analysis of jobs and continuation of payment of the “Schengen allowance”
Both unions, SPS and PSS have been informed of the attempts to bend the rules when it comes the analysis, which is something that has been going on from the very beginning, and especially the manipulation of the results, on the 5th of November 2019, when the presentation of the analysis to the employers took place at the Ministry of Public Administration. Ever since then, the SPS has advocated for and insisted on tightening the measures, as it soon became clear at the negotiations on changes to the Collective agreement for police officers, which were happening under the leadership of the then-State Secretary, Melita Šinkovec, M.Sc., that the previous Government (which is also a signatory of the agreement) has a clear intention to circumvent the analysis and does not intend to implement the commitments regarding the career system. For this reason, we submitted a joint letter, at the proposal of SPS, in May 2019, stating that we will not participate in the working group for alternative recommendations until the tariff ratio of jobs in the police is clearly set.
Unfortunately, the SPS was the only union that insisted on this. Due to more and more information about changing the analysis and the strike agreement, we proposed the implementation of a warning strike in informal talks and meetings. In the SPS, we have repeatedly emphasised the need to immediately react to the illegality of the analysis and to not wait for it to be submitted to the Government procedure. Unfortunately, at that time, the members of the SPS were forced to carry out the warning strike by ourselves – alone. We need to be aware of the fact that, when it comes to the analysis, the story is now over, as we cannot seem to come to an agreement with the Government of the Republic of Slovenia regarding its validity, and the decision on whether the II. point of the agreement has been fulfilled or not, can only be accepted by the court. Because of this, the SPS did not try to use the media in our fight but filed a lawsuit with the Administrative Court of the Republic of Slovenia to annul the Government’s decision, but unfortunately, there has been no final decision on this matter yet, as the case is on appeal.
In the negotiations during the strike at the end of 2018, the members of SPS agreed with the provision of the second point, regarding the analysis, solely on the basis of the PSS’s assurances that it is already carrying out such an analysis through the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions of Slovenia, with the help of European funds, and that the results are extremely favourable for police officers. The PSS confirmed that this is true with your notice no. PSS-15 / 2020-259 of 19.10.2020, stating:
Therefore, in 2017, the union decided to commission an analysis from an independent contractor, which would show where the police officers’ jobs belong, in comparison to other jobs in other professional groups with special powers. Based on the proposal of the Police Trade Union of Slovenia, the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions included a study called “Analysis of the classification of authorised officials in salary grades, based on comparisons with a criterion” into the project named “Facing market challenges together.” The interim report of the analysis performers was used as the starting point for the Police Union of Slovenia to agree on the content of the Agreement on Resolving Strike Claims, which was concluded on the 27th of December 2018. The independent »Comparative analysis of evaluations of tasks and necessary competencies for public administration employees with special powers (uniform professions)” (hereinafter: Comparative Analysis of the PSS) was conducted between July 2018 and April 2019 by the Faculty of Administration of the University of Ljubljana.
At this point, we acknowledge and accept our share of responsibility, as the SPS also agreed to this diction, as we trusted the PSS as a partner union in the strike and believed in the credibility of the information you provided for us, although we the SPS leadership had many concerns when deciding to join the agreement. For the sake of correctness, we did not react to the insulting note in the PSS notice no. 6 –2 / 2018–245z from the 31st of December 2018, where you state: “We also want to thank the SPS representatives for entrusting us with leading the strike activities and conducting the negotiations, from the announcement of the strike to the conclusion of the strike agreement, and thus helping us to be able to improve the status of members of the Police, the Ministry of the Interior and the Internal Affairs Inspectorate, and implement our ideas more easily.” We believe that this record came to be due to the attribution of merit, based on the facts cited above regarding the analysis, so we did not even respond to this, as we put the common interest of all employees before our own merit. It is precisely for this reason that at all the public presentations of the agreement in the trade union groups, while expressing concerns, we also pointed out that PSS already has the intermediate results of its analysis and that the analysis will certainly be favourable for the employees and praised your efforts.
We sincerely believe that it is difficult to face your own failure and it is much easier to put the blame on external factors and to blame the Government and the Minister who inherited the problem, for this failure. The fact is that there have been some changes and manipulations made to the analysis and its results were already known on the 5th of November 2019. This is also why we regret that, despite the SPS trying to persuade the other union, there were no joint trade union activities and no strike, as soon as the conditions for it were met (the deadline for carrying out the analysis was exceeded). As a result, we were forced to carry out a 4-hour warning strike in February 2020 and to top it off; we were then personally attacked and discredited by the PSS and its prominent representatives, which we also have properly documented (social networks, etc.). The PSS’s public announcement that was made on the 29th of January 2020 also states that “the strike requirements, which are based on the Agreement on the Settlement of Strike Demands (Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia, No. 3/19), are currently being resolved and adequately legally secured,” and that “the strike, announced for the 3rd of February 2020 by the Trade Union of Police Officers and directed against the Government of the Republic of Slovenia, currently makes no sense.”
On the 25th of September 2020, we were at a joint meeting with the Minister of the Interior, where we were made aware of the decision of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia regarding the analysis, and then, at the suggestion of the SPS, we also received the material and were able to comment on it. The publication of the analysis carried out by the PSS, which was the basis for the provisions of the strike agreement, is unfortunately irrelevant at the moment, as no government will consider it credible and independent, and any arguing about who is right would also postpone the reaching of any possible solutions.
We sincerely regret that the pursuit of common goals and the insistence on the common positions (for example, the position regarding the creation of the structure of jobs) did not happen during the time of the previous Government, which also signed the agreement and is fully responsible for the manipulations. As is also clear from to the minutes of the negotiations of the 12th of October 2020, the Government of the Republic of Slovenia is prepared to resolve the situation and also called on the trade unions to submit appropriate proposals. Due to the interest of female and male police officers, the SPS also prepared its proposed solutions, which were presented at an informal meeting on the 23rd of November 2020, and at a working group in Tacen on the 10th of December 2020, which we will also talk about in more detail below.
Requirement no.2: amendment of the first paragraph of Article 5 of the Decree on the promotion of public employees to salary grades (Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia, no. 51/08, 91/08, 113/09, 22/19) in such a way that in the salary subgroup C3, procedures of checking the compliance shall be carried out by the 15th of November each year.
We are honestly glad that you have taken the efforts of the SPS, which you have strongly opposed in the past, into account by formulating these strike requirements. Namely, due to the changed case law at the central negotiations of the public sector which took place on the 11th of September 2019 (Minutes of the meeting of the Negotiating Commission No. 0100-26 / 2019, the 16th of September 2019), the SPS took the initiative to repeatedly check the fulfilment of the conditions for promotions (specifically the provisions of the Regulation that we have just mentioned), in order to not cause damage to the police officers who were transferred to the VI. tariff group on the 30th of June 2018. Due to the unresponsiveness of the then-Government, on the 3rd of January 2020, the SPS also formally submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Public Administration, to amend the provisions of paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Decree. The PSS reacted very harshly to the SPS’s proposal; your reaction was not only harsh but also insulting to the Trade Union of Police Officers, as you even accused us of undermining the negotiations for the change of the Collective agreement for police officers, which have been at a standstill since June 2019, which is also evident from all minutes. On the 8th of January 2020, with the document no. PSS-15 / 2020-4, you responded to the SPS’s initiative with the following insulting words:
“In the PSS, we are aware that the changes to the conditions for promotion can currently only be fully regulated in the negotiations for changes and amendments to Article 22 of the Collective agreement for police officers. And because we are aware of this, we, therefore, condemn the fact that the content that is the subject of negotiations for the Collective agreement for police officers is being transferred, without an agreement, to the entire public sector, where the interests of professional groups are completely different, sometimes even diametrically opposed, than the interests of police officers. In view of the above, the members of PSS are rightly wondering whether our colleagues from the SPS even have a serious intention to conclude the negotiations for the amendment of Article 22 of the Collective agreement for police officers, which is what they often state in their notifications to the members, as such reckless actions and complete non-cooperation in the negotiations process for the changes and amendments to Article 22 of the Collective agreement for police officers (Recommendations for the implementation of the career system related to the structure of jobs, preparation and concretisation of proposals for amendments and additions to the normative part of the Collective agreement for police officers), only cause additional complications in the negotiations.”
We are extremely pleased that, despite the harsh words at the time, you realised that the SPS pursued (and is still pursuing, as this request was handed over to the current Minister at the first meeting after taking office) the goal of improving the situation of all police officers, and that you included the SPS proposal that was made on the 3rd of January 2020, in your strike requirements in its entirety. We see this as special recognition, which shows us that despite your harsh words, you are still capable of recognising good solutions, even if they are proposed by someone else. In order to improve the status of police officers, it is necessary to pursue common goals.
Requirement no.3: Amendment to the provisions of Article 50 of the Organization and Work in the Police Act and reach a collective agreement for activities
Given the diametrically opposing positions you have defended since the beginning of the negotiations for changes to the Collective agreement for police officers, and especially recently, we are pleased that you have followed the ideas of the SPS on this issue and summarised our proposals in its entirety, in your strike request. As you already know from an informal meeting at the Ministry of the Interior, which happened on the 23rd of November 2020, and a meeting of the working group for the career system in Tacen, it was the SPS who submitted the proposal to amend Article 50 of the Organization and Work in the Police Act (in a concrete amendment form) and conclude a collective agreement with the appropriate tariff part, which would make the career system in the police simple and transparent.
We are especially pleased that you formulated this strike request, despite the sharp opposition of the PSS representatives at the meeting in Tacen on the 10th of December 2020, at the presentation of the SPS proposal, and despite the rather harsh words spoken at our expense, and stubborn insistence on a concept that would only bring cosmetic corrections, the financial effects of which would only have been felt by the highest-paid police officers. We sincerely want to express our satisfaction that we managed to convince the representatives of the PSS with our argumentative, professional approach, and on the basis of many years of experience in the police, which resulted in the PSS has also starting to pursue the goals and objectives of the SPS. We are especially proud of this, because, after the meeting on the 10th of December 2020, we were very much convinced that a common language could not be found, despite the agreement of both the representatives of the Police and the Ministry of the Interior with the SPS proposals.
Therefore, at this point, we sincerely want to thank the leadership of PSS for fully following the arguments of the SPS on this request as well, despite their previous different opinion.
Requirement no.4: Conducting a social dialogue
Despite the satisfaction we feel as we see that you have fully embraced the arguments of the SPS in all of the other requirements, we cannot in any way agree with you when it comes to the matter of conducting a social dialogue with the leadership of the Ministry of the Interior and the Police, and we estimate that this is politically motivated. We believe that both sides are responsible for a correct and responsible social dialogue. For a long time now, we have been monitoring the mutual confrontations between the PSS and the Minister of the Interior, especially on matters that have nothing to do with the trade union activities (relations between state bodies, etc.). At this point, we must also remind you of your insulting accusations against the SPS in September and October 2020, where you, unjustifiably and completely without reason or cause, began to directly accuse us of subordination to Minister Aleš Hojs and partial party interests. As a result of your unjustified accusations, the SPS suffered both moral and business damage, which is why we had to resort to legal remedies to protect the good name and reputation of the SPS. By no means will we allow the PSS to drag us into mutual political confrontations or even into activities to overthrow any government, and we will also not allow it to publicly slander us.
We must openly and honestly deny the claims that social dialogue is not taking place or that we are not receiving proposals for legal acts for coordination. Coordination takes place in the very same way as it did under the previous ministers. In the SPS, we have received all the materials and were able to comment on them, and we must admit that they were largely taken into account. And what is more, the leadership of the Ministry of the Interior fully followed a number of SPS initiatives, among which we want to highlight the following ones in particular:
- Raising the starting salary grade for auxiliary police officers from the 21st to the 24th salary grade.
- Regulation of the issue of official housing for the most vulnerable groups.
- Abolition of the exclusion of hazard and special load accessories.
- Increased enrollment in the Police College and an almost doubled the number of candidates.
- Cancelling incomprehensible referrals of police officers from Maribor and Murska Sobota to Koper.
- Adopting the long-standing SPS initiative for the introduction of mandates for managerial positions (included in the amendments to Organization and Work of the Police Act).
- Raising the initial salary grade for candidates for police officers from 18 the 18th to the 21st salary grade, as determined by the Public Sector Salary System Act (proposal included in the amendments to the Organization and Work of the Police Act).
- Recognition of the professional standard for police officers who have acquired the profession of police officer through retraining for the 5th level of education and have the appropriate education (proposal included in the amendment to the Organization and Work of the Police Act).
- Other individual cases.
Due to all the above, we can confidently deny all of your statements, which are stated in the explanation of the decision on the announcement of the PSS strike under requirement number four. Therefore, we also urge you to approach the appropriate social dialogue yourselves. For all of us in the SPS, your moves from September 2020 are incomprehensible, as you interfered in the field of political activity with your activities, with the direct accusations of Minister Aleš Hojs, which came only two days before the interpellation in the National Assembly, and you (unsuccessfully) tried to bring the SPS into this confrontation with untrue allegations of threats and “extortion,” after requesting a separate ministerial meeting with the unions. The SPS completely distances itself from such activities, and we believe that such moves only harm the social dialogue. The consequence of such conduct is the proposal of a new provision in the proposed amendments to the Organization and Work of the Police Act, regarding the prohibition of any political activity of police officers, which may mean interference in completely legitimate and non-political activities of police officers in their environment (participation in municipal councils, school councils, etc.). We also regret your harsh negative views on the latest amendments to the Rules on renting official housing and amendments to the Organization and Work of the Police Act, regarding the regulation of official housing for the most vulnerable groups of employees, who have otherwise received full political consent in the National Assembly, as such actions certainly create the opinion that “some are against everything and anything” and it is difficult to have a dialogue with certain people.
Conclusion: The response to the PSS’s call to join the strike
We would like to inform you that we are very pleased that you have fully recapped the efforts of the Trade Union of the Police Officers in three of your strike requests, despite the fact that until recently, the members of the PSS had a completely opposite opinion, which also follows from your letters, quoted in our justifications. In the SPS we, of course, do not attribute this to any sort of hypocrisy or any background (not even to the attempts to appropriate the success for possible solutions), but we see your changed attitude as support for the SPS and all its previous efforts, as well as a recognition of our previous professional arguments, which are good for the police employees.
However, in spite of all of this, we would like to inform you that the Trade Union of the Police Officers will not be joining the announced strike, because Slovenia is currently facing one of the greatest dangers in its history, which threatens hundreds of lives and human health, and our participation in the strike would grossly violate our ethical mission that stems from our profession. In addition, we estimate that in such a state of emergency, the implementation of strike activities from Article 76 of the Organization and Work of the Police Act is not feasible and could even be considered illegal conduct or a criminal offence. Because of this, the SPS does not want to take part in the strike, which is only a strike on paper!
Due to all the above, we would like to inform you that the Trade Union of the Police Officers will not join the strike and will not call on its members to carry out the strike activities. The decision to carry out a strike is the decision of each individual, and we leave the decision to participate in the strike to each member of the SPS. At the same time, we are obliged to warn them of the possible consequences.
We also estimate that announcing and carrying out a strike in the political situation that is currently present in Slovenia (filing the vote of no confidence), would represent a clear political positioning of the union, both in the internal and external public, and could be understood as active participation in political activities.
Despite the attempts at discrediting, which have been particularly frequent recently, the SPS has always been and always will be an apolitical trade union that will not engage in political activities. Precisely because of our principled attitude towards the authorities, our ability to cooperate with anyone and resist anyone, and to act exclusively for the benefit of police officers, we are considered a union that cannot be “bought.”
At the same time, we also fear that the announcement and implementation of the strike at the moment when talks on solutions to the open issues are taking place may also represent a moment that will mean the final loss of any possibility of the adopting solutions that are indicated. In the difficult economic and financial situation, we are in; we estimate that the reaching of any possible solutions would likely be moved for decades into the future, which is something we do not want.
All of us at SPS wish you a successful implementation of the strike and individual strike activities! The Trade Union of the Police Officers will once again assess the situation when we will see that the talks have reached a dead end and, possibly based on different facts and circumstances, we will likely make a different decision, about which we will inform you, the employees and the public in a timely manner.
Kristjan Mlekuš, M.Sc., President of the Trade Union of Police Officers (SPS)