The Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) organized an open forum on the topic of "Social Dialogue" in Maribor last Wednesday, which was hosted by Deputy Chairwoman of the Committee for Labour, Family and Social Affairs, Romana Tomc. The deputy mayor of Maribor mag, Tomaž Kancler, and the President of SDS, Janez Janša, welcomed the guests at the Open Forum.
Janša stated that in this crucial time, the SDS’s attention is not only focused on the usual pre-election preparation, but also largely on the content of its program; “Today’s Open Forum is organized to build a solid relationship with the unions. Today we are going to listen to them, because Slovenia needs a serious social agreement.” Janša pointed out that this will be the first task for all parties in the new Parliament and social partners. He added that the causes for the current situation are not the unions, retirees nor referendums, but the greed and mismanagement of some individuals.
The representatives of the union presented their points of view on the current economic situation. The Executive Secretary of ZSSS, Andrej Zorko, agreed that the social dialogue is the only means to ensure development, progress and social peace; "In 2009, the government was introduced to the eight pillars of labor market development. Unfortunately, no column was completed, this is why, we are now facing with such high unemployment," Zorko stated. He continued by way of explanation that Slovenian economic growth is actually visible, however it yet to create jobs. Zorko continued; "In 2007 there were 240,000 jobs. In January this year, there were only 166,000," Zorko went on to add that the principal recruiters actually came from the employment agency industry. He also raised the point that the removal of several administrative barriers to start-up businesses has also meant an increase in job availability.
Zorko goes on to describe social dialogue as having a crucial impact on the private sector as it reflects a country’s (un)employment policy; “Current employment policy is not effective. Like our neighbors, our practices should be focused on gradually retiring the older workforce and slowly introducing a younger generation to take its place. This…” he said “should regulate the country policy.” Zorko continued by assessing the current employment policy, raising the issues of employee apathy, the low mobility of Slovenian workers and the system of self-employment. He suggested these policy areas fail to appreciate the true challenges faced by small companies or those who are self-employed.
The next representative of the unions was the President of the KNSS-Independence, Drago Lombar, who stated that today; no one talks about the indulgement of trade unions in the EU accession process and in adopting the euro. ”For the unions, it is particularly painful when they are blamed for the failure of reforms.” He pointed out that in the last three years there has been no social dialogue between the unions and government; “Let us be the example of how to convince people”.
The President of KS 90S union, Peter Majcen, emphasized that the country should involve itself in the economy and should not withdraw from it. Majcen made reference to the German automobile manufacturer Opel as an example of a business which has active government participation in its affairs, including job security policies. He established this point in saying; “We must face the possibility that we could lose many jobs, if we sold companies to foreigners. Logistics are the lifeline of our economy, and trade is its heart.”
The president of SZS - Alternativa, Zdenko Lorber, continued with issue of employment, making special reference to the unemployed population and stressing their unfortunate situation in these times. His suggestions included the establishment of a team which would analyze the unemployment situation and look for the solutions, He concluded stating; “The social dialogue reached under Janez Janša’s government was excellent.”
Chairman of the Workers' Trade Union - Solidarity, Branko Celinšek, emphasized that Slovenia’s governance needs improving; "It is not only about maintaining the current standard, but after seven years we are in alarming condition. More and more people come for help, legally, financially, for various reasons, some of which include help paying fines prescribed by the police for a traffic violations” said Cilenšek. He also said that alongside improvement, changes are needed, whilst also asking; how? By whom?; "We are becoming a poor country. Who has led us to this situation?" questioned Celinšek. His recommendations for resolving this situation include measures of social dialogue, something he advises to be mutually understood by employers, employees and the government, stressing that; "this dialogue enables the social peace."
He also pointed out that four years ago, the pursuit of social dialogue almost died out completely down. The legislative proposals that have been associated with social partners have been applied in parliamentary procedure without any dialogue. Celinšek sees the future of social dialogue in the equality of all partners, he adds that structural reforms are necessary, but a reassessment of priorities must come first; "The reform of the labor market is a priority, a move which could embrace a consensus of youth employment and defining of the protection for the elderly" he said. He added that without further social dialogue, Slovenia will end up in chaos and now is the time to create a stable social dialogue.
Chairman of the Area Committee SVIZ Podravje, mag. Boris Radosavljevič, took a different angle, suggesting that funding in education is an investment for generations to come. As such, he suggests that Slovenia should relocate part of the funding for economic drive and job creation, into education. He also agreed that social dialogue built with equal partners is the appropriate path to take to overcome the crisis.
President of the rail union, Damian Cancer, talked about freezing the budget. He also opened the issue of transport policy, something which should have had long-term planning. He also discussed the problem of the third development axis; “The public passenger transport is the only way to obtain effective mobility”.
President of the Police union of Slovenia, Radivoj Urošević, said that the union is aware of the situation that the country is facing now. They understand that some measures should be taken to address them, however when salaries are being cut, the situation is difficult to accept; “The state should not scrimp and save on those who are risking their life. Does the country not need security and police?” he questioned.
President of the SVS, Zvonko Vukadinović, warned that social partners have become bipolar. He raised a number of examples supporting his statement, including dilemma facing the nursing profession and the disparity between cost of education and salary. He also drew attention to the problem facing part-time nurses in higher education. For these members of the health service, the cost of their education (€3600) is over four times their average income (€800).