STA, 8 May 2019 - The opposition Democrats (Slovenska demokratska stranka, SDS) have initiated a motion to exclude healthcare and the army from the uniform system covering wages across the entire public sector, in what could be the dismantling of a complex scheme put in place by an SDS-led government in 2008.
A decade after it was established the system is causing dissatisfaction, in particular when it comes to incentivising the best performers and those with the biggest workload, SDS deputy Jelka Godec told the press on Wednesday. "The most severe anomalies, discrepancies and warnings come from defence and healthcare," she said.
The SDS demands an emergency session of parliament to debate its motion. It proposes that the government prepare an analysis of the system complete with a set of proposals on how to tackle them, which should include the possibility of excluding healthcare and soldiers from the single system.
Janez Janša, the leader of the SDS, wrote on Twitter yesterday that "after 11 years you can see from the Moon what works and that doesn't". He said the single pay system should be preserved for the public administration but "healthcare, the army, police... must go their own way".
The motion comes in the midst of one of the most severe crisis in healthcare, which is faced with the prospect of dozens, perhaps even hundreds of general practitioners leaving the public system due to what they claim are unreasonable workloads.
At several community health centres around the country most if not all GPs have handed their notices in a final escalation of tensions with the government and the public health insurer ZSSS.
In Kranj, one of the areas hit the worst by the doctors' action, almost all GP offices are closed as the doctors use up their remaining holiday days before their notices become effective, leaving the emergency service to do the work of GPs, which has led to long waiting times.
In recent weeks the government has been scrambling to come up with a solution that would be financially sustainable while also placating the doctors, but at this point a solution is not in sight.
The SDS motion dovetails with the demands of doctors, who have long argued that the single pay system is too restrictive, even as they managed to win considerable pay rises in the last few years above what other public sector employees have received.
One trade union of doctors, Praktikum, was even found to have egged on doctors to quit in order to force community health services to hire them as sole proprietors, which would liberate them from some of the bureaucracy while removing any pay restrictions.
But many in government fear any one portion of the public sector leaving the single pay system would lead to its collapse and trigger unbridled pay demands across the public sector that may jeopardise the stability of public finances.
Alenka Forte, who heads the SDS's health committee, however said today that exclusion of healthcare from the single pay system would be "a condition without which it is impossible to start improving Slovenian healthcare."
"Those who want improvements in healthcare must stop with ideology, they should not compare us to Venezuela. We need to look at best practices in the EU and start working on making healthcare serve the patients," she said.
The Public Administration Ministry said in a response that individual profession groups or parts of the public sector leaving the uniform system was not a guarantee that their pay would be regulated in a more appropriate way.
The ministry said that the SDS probably assumed that partial negotiations would make it easier for an individual profession group to get higher pay.
It meanwhile believes that the uniform system provides better possibilities for rewarding best performers and those with the biggest workload. It will soon present to public sector trade unions and negotiate relevant changes to the system.
The ministry also noted that Public Administration Minister Rudi Medved and PM Marjan Šarec had stressed on several occasions that the exit of one or more profession groups from the system could cause it to collapse.
The system would become non-transparent and hard to manage, it said, adding that the "assessment that the wage bill for public sector employees would increase even further is justified."