By: Sara Bertoncelj / Nova24tv
On Tuesday, the trade union of doctors and dentists – FIDES, and the government representatives met for crucial negotiations on doctors’ salaries but failed to reach an agreement. Further actions will be decided shortly by the union’s leadership. Vice-President Gregor Zemljič has not ruled out the possibility of a strike. “We are shocked by the events of the last week,” said Zemljič after the negotiations, explaining that this was the last negotiation on doctors’ salaries, as the government’s offer today was final. However, FIDES’ accusations of threats made by the Minister of Health Danijel Bešič Loredan against the head of the FIDES negotiating team caused quite a stir, Slovenian Press Agency reports. The Minister still enjoys the support of Prime Minister Robert Golob, but the latter has spoken to him about the alleged threats and admitted that the Minister’s emotions “got the better of him” in one of his talks with the doctors.
After negotiations with the government last week, the main strike committee of the FIDES trade union assessed that negotiations have come to a standstill. If no
agreement with the government side was to be reached by Tuesday, the membership unanimously expected an escalation of trade union activities. Health Minister Danijel Bešič Loredan, however, stressed that the government’s proposal to the medical trade union will remain the same and will, therefore, not be changed by the government for any of the negotiations. Thus, the doctors’ and dentists’ trade union FIDES, did not reach an agreement in Tuesday’s negotiations with the government – as expected.
Bešič Loredan was also expected to respond to FIDES’ accusations that, in a telephone conversation, he had demanded that the Vice-President of the FIDES medical trade union, Gregor Zemljič, sign an agreement with the government. Among other things, the Minister allegedly told Zemljič that he had received orders directly from the Prime Minister to “wage an all-out war against the doctors and FIDES if they decide to announce a strike, and the goal of it would be to isolate and exhaust the doctors and FIDES.” Before the beginning of the negotiations, Zemljič pointed out that they would be filing a complaint with the Secretariat-General of the Government, which they will also comment on once they receive a response from the government.
Prime Minister denied that this was done on his instructions In a statement for the media, Prime Minister Robert Golob said that he had discussed the allegations with the Minister. He said that the Minister had informed him that he had had several conversations, “literally private conversations,” with various doctors and that in one of these conversations, “emotions took over the words.” “I have accepted this, and I believe that the Minister, too, has understood this, that things like this will not happen again,” Golob added, according to the Siol web portal. Milan Krek from the National Institute of Public Health and Franci Vindišar from the Celje General Hospital have described the Minister’s communication in a very similar manner – so we could practically say that this is the Minister’s distinctive way of talking. Golob also claimed that he did not instruct the Minister to do what he did.
Golob believes that Bešič Loredan also enjoys strong support among citizens “Of course I trust him, and I believe that he is also the key to finally bringing healthcare to the level that Slovenians deserve – after 30 years,” he reminded everyone of the many problems in our healthcare system, which the Minister is supposedly doing a great job of solving. For example, today, due to “unforeseen events and an increase in the number of absences due to sick leave,” the adult healthcare clinics were temporarily relocated from the Polje Health Centre to the Fužine Health Centre, where there is already a shortage of doctors, and patient referrals continue to be uncontrollably deleted from the system. The government side has only admitted that its side of the negotiations has misinterpreted the presented estimates of the financial impact, which FIDES has been pointing out for two weeks now and asking the government side for calculations. Therefore, according to the Delo newspaper, they expected that at Tuesday’s negotiations, they would be able to find a solution for the adequate placement of medical and dental posts within the approximate financial framework presented by the government side in the negotiations. But apparently, this did not happen – so much for a “great job of solving the problems of healthcare.”
It is also worth noting that this time, Minister Danjile Bešič Loredan even threatened the representatives of the doctors’ union with the publication of personal data (including data from the Financial Administration of the Republic of Slovenia), which are considered sensitive data. According to the web portal Požareport, this could also mean that the Minister of Health and Prime Minister have illegal access to the official data of individual taxpayers and are using this data for settling the political score – which could be the biggest scandal of the Golob government so far. The data was allegedly being prepared by the former “uncensored journalist” (she used to work at the web portal “Necenzurirano.si” – “Uncensored”), who is also the current public relations representative of the Freedom Movement party (Gibanje Svoboda), Vesna Vuković, together with Damir Črnčec, State Secretary at the Ministry of Defence. The Minister of Health is said to have had the documents prepared already, in special “negotiations” folders. From the letter of Vice-President of FIDES, Damjan Polh, which was published by Požareport, it is clear that one of the targets of the Golob government was also Bojana Beović, who (in addition to being a member of the Slovenian Democratic Party), is clearly a thorn in the side of the current ruling coalition, and the government also allegedly has Igor Muževič (President of the trade union of family doctors Praktik.um) and the other trade unions on its side. However, according to the Delo newspaper, Muževič does not agree with these claims. He said that his trade union has never negotiated salaries with the Minister and that such important decisions are always something that members of the trade union vote on beforehand, adding that he believes that the Minister’s communication with Zemljič was “robust.”
Tuesday’s offer from the government was final After the negotiations, which lasted about an hour, Gregor Zemljič, head of the negotiating team of the Slovenian doctors’ and dentists’ trade union FIDES, said that the announcement of a press conference by the Ministers of Health and Public Administration, Danijel Bešič Loredan and Sanja Ajanović Hovnik, at 1 p.m. on that same day – meaning, two hours after the beginning of negotiations – was a bad sign. “We are shocked by the events of the past week,” Zemljič said after the negotiations, explaining that this was the last negotiation on doctors’ salaries, as the government’s offer today was final. According to Zemljič, FIDES has prepared a counter-proposal based on new calculations of the financial impact of the government’s proposal, which the government has forwarded to the unions. This envisaged a 12 percent pay rise for experienced doctors, but it was not part of the negotiations on Tuesday: “The only problem was identified in the jump from registrant to specialist, where the offer was improved by one pay grade.”
One of the options is also a strike The FIDES membership expected an agreement to be reached on Tuesday, and otherwise, they had announced that they would be escalating their trade union activities. Therefore, talks will now start in the union’s leadership team and negotiation group, after which the main committee will be convened as soon as possible to decide on the next steps. In October, when signing the agreement on the temporary suspension of strike activities, which foresaw the creation of a separate public sector wage system, FIDES agreed not to initiate strike actions on this issue. But this agreement does not include salary negotiations. A strike by doctors is therefore not ruled out. Irena Ilešič Čujovič, President of the health and social care trade union, assessed that what happened on Tuesday was not really a negotiation
in the true sense of the word, even though the government had made an approximate counter-suggestion. The trade union sees the government’s proposal as a whole within the healthcare system, so they were not yet in a position to comment on it on Tuesday. They will wait for Wednesday’s negotiations between the government and the representative health and social care trade unions. That is when it will become clearer whether an agreement is even possible, she stressed. When asked about the possibility of escalation of activities, she replied that one of the options was a strike, as a last resort, if it was to be assessed on Wednesday that an agreement was not possible, reports the Slovenian Press Agency.