STA, 29 November 2018 - The first reading in the National Assembly of a bill raising the minimum wage by overhauling the way it is calculated indicated that the changes, proposed by the opposition Left with the tentative support of the coalition, are likely to be watered down somewhat during the adoption process.
While all parties agreed the minimum wage, currently at EUR 638 net, was too low, they mostly found issues with the bill.
The motion, coming after basic welfare allowance went up from EUR 297 to EUR 393 earlier this year, would increase the minimum wage by roughly 5% in 2019 and just as much in 2020. In 2021 it introduces a calculation formula that would keep it 20% above minimum living costs.
The main objection raised on Thursday by most coalition parties and the government as it held a correspondence session had to do with to the timeline of the raise, which is closely linked to the exclusion of individual bonuses and allowances from the calculation of the minimum wage.
"A predictable business environment is crucial for the economy in Slovenia, which is why the minimum wage needs to be raised in a well though-out, predictable and gradual way. When considering predictability, it is inappropriate that changes adopted in December 2018 already enter into force in January 2019," the government wrote.
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It highlighted the need to phase out the bonuses - employers have been including various bonuses into the minimum wage - gradually, arguing "this would give the public as well as private sector enough time to adjust".
While asserting it was in favour of the goals of the proposal, the government reached out to employers, who have been complaining the changes were drafted without social dialogue.
It said that "it would make sense when searching for the most appropriate solutions in the next stages of the legislative procedure to consider social dialogue to the highest extent possible and adjust the enforcement's dynamics for individual solutions".
The proposal in general was rejected only by the opposition New Slovenia (NSi), whose Jožef Horvat said the rise would disrupt the balance of the wage scale, and by the opposition Democrats (SDS) whose Karmen Furman identified a misguided wage policy combined with a misguided social transfers policy as the reason for this disruption.
The two parties also highlighted the absence of social dialogue, while Jerca Korče of the senior coalition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) said the Economic and Social Council had had a number of opportunities to discuss a higher minimum wage.
"I have the feeling that the time will never be right for this debate," she said, also rejecting accusations that an effort was under way to revive "an outdated social model" and to meddle in the economy.
"The state has to see the whole picture, which is comprised of both business and the recipients of the minimum wage. Because the wage did not increase on its own, politics assessed it was time to intervene," she said.
Joining the Left in supporting the changes in their current form was the opposition National Party (SNS), whose Dušan Šiško was however simultaneously critical of the raised welfare allowance.
In the end, the bill was endorsed in a unanimous vote with the SDS and NSi abstaining.