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Thursday, July 7, 2022

Trade unions and businesses have welcomed the EUR 3 billion bill

Trade unions and businesses have welcomed the EUR 3 billion bill to help the economy and society cope with the coronavirus crisis as a step in the right direction meant to avert massive layoffs. However, the unions say certain groups have been left out and criticise the government for ignoring social dialogue in adopting it.

The intervention package the government presented yesterday brings a number of measures to avert a looming wave of layoffs, but fails to cover all affected groups. Some systemic measures are poorly worded and should be more concrete, ZSSS trade union confederation boss Lidija Jerkič told the STA on Monday.

The bill does not cover all those who lost their jobs before the law, those who due to the Covid-19 situation agreed with the termination of their contract, and many other groups of workers on various forms on non-permanent contracts. Jerkič believes this is an area calling for additional reflection.

According to a statement by confederations represented on the Economic and Social Council (ESS), a compensation for the loss of pay should be given to all workers who have lost their job for business reasons, incapacity or disability, or because their temporary contract ran out after the epidemic was declared on 12 March.

She also pointed to students, who will get only a one-off payment of EUR 150. And while the Slovenian Student Organisation (ŠOS) is happy the government has not entirely forgotten about the students, it considers the amount by far too low, noting an average monthly cost of a student is around EUR 500.

The ŠOS said almost half of all students are forced to work to be able to afford studying, and now they faced months-long loss of income. It also criticised the bill for not covering students who do not have permanent residence in Slovenia, but welcomed the fact they will not have to pay dormitory rent.

Jerkič is happy with the government’s coverage of pay for those who have been temporarily laid off and the state’s payment of all pension contributions. She also welcomed the special crisis bonus for those who continue to work, but noted a big difference between the private and public sectors.

The head of the largest confederation of trade unions is meanwhile apprehensive about the labour inspection services’ ability to control the implementation of the measures, given its understaffing even before the epidemic.

The trade unions understand the bill had to be adopted in a rush, but nevertheless pointed to its being adopted in the absence of social dialogue.

The KSJS confederation of public sector trade unions believes the rush does not warrant neglecting the fundamental democratic processes, and the ZSSS urged the government to appoint its members of the ESS as soon as possible.

The KSJS, although it supports the majority of the measures, believes some of them radically encroach upon workers’ rights, including reassigning a public worker without their consent, ordering enormous overtime without securing adequate rest time, or hiring top office holders without calls for applications.

Worried the government might save on the backs of the public sector like during the financial crisis, the KSJS wants the government to publicly say how Slovenia will service its increased public debt resulting from the adopted measures, especially since a recession is expected to hit after the coronavirus crisis.

It moreover highlighted “an enormous burden and responsibility carried by public sector workers, with many exposed to infection on a daily basis”, so it expects the government to bear this in mind in the future.

Another confederation of trade unions, KS 90, said the special bonus for those working in a crisis situation should be received by all public sector workers who are working, not just those in the most risky lines of business such as healthcare.

A different view on the monthly crisis bonus – EUR 200 for those who continue to work and whose last monthly pay was below three minimum wages – is held by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS), saying it should rather depend on the extent of risk and stress a worker is exposed to.

The GZS has welcomed the bill noting it primarily focussed on social issues and keeping the jobs, which is also important for businesses, but it should bring clearer criteria for aid.

In a video statement, GZS director general Sonja Šmuc said the GZS was happy the government would cover the costs of temporarily laid-off workers, sick leave and pension contributions of employees and employers.

The stakeholders will try to influence the final working of the bill before it is passed in parliament later this week.

The GZS moreover has great expectations from another intervention bill the government is about to draft and which should focus on liquidity matters.

Šmuc believes it should contain two key measures: a multi-billion euro fund to provide fresh loans for operating currents assets and for investment and a fund for the purchase of liabilities, to prevent payment default and the crisis being used to the detriment of companies.

The unions taking part in the ESS also highlighted the fact that the bill does not contain the announced cut in fees for members of supervisory boards and for non-executive directors of companies in direct or indirect state ownership.

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