“Give us back what you took from us!”

Thousands of Slovenian trade unionists gathered outside government buildings in Ljubljana on 24 January to demand “Higher wages for all, not just the privileged”.

Some 30,000 public sector workers took 24-hour strike action for higher pay. Slovenia has one of the fastest growing economies in the EU, with falling unemployment, and yet public-sector wages have been held down since 2012.

“The government is sending us a message that there is money for the rich but never for the rest,” said Lidija Jerkic, president of the Slovenian Association of Free Trade Unions (ZSSS). “We asked yesterday, we are demanding today, we will take tomorrow.”

The strikers ranged from customs officers and university professors to nurses and social workers
Over 2,000 people protested in front of the government building in Ljubljana, singing, blowing whistles and carrying banners.

Jakob Pocivavsek, the strike coordinator, said in an interview that public sector pay should rise by 16 to 20% over an agreed period. “Although this is the fifth year of economic growth, some wage restrictions imposed in 2012 have not been lifted yet. It is time to scrap all restrictions and increase wages,” he said.

According to forecasts, Slovenia expects a healthy economic growth rate of 3.9% in 2018, boosted by exports and investments. Following financial crisis, the country restructured its banking sector in 2013 and returned to growth the following year.

“We are fighting to get back what was taken from us,” said social worker Gordana Kosanic. “Many public-sector employees, like cooks and cleaners, find it hard to make ends meet.” Police, nurses and teachers plan further strikes in February unless the government raises wages, and are likely to be joined by workers in the private sector taking action at company level later in the year.

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