STA, 26 July 2019 - Slovenia's model of temporary posting of workers to other EU countries has been subject to sharp criticism about exportation of cheap labour. The country has seen an exponential growth in such postings over the past ten years and is reportedly third in the EU by the number of posted workers.
The Health Insurance Institute (ZZZS), which issues forms to employers posting workers abroad, issued 17,668 such forms in 2008, 103,370 in 2014 and as many as 159,136 in 2017, but the figure fell to 127,059 last year. A worker may be posted abroad several times a year, which means several forms.
The social contributions paid by Slovenian employers for the workers sent abroad do not correspond to the actual pay they earn but to what they would if they did the same work in Slovenia. Posted workers as a rule also get extras such as allowances for separation and higher living costs, so their earnings are higher than if they performed their job in Slovenia.
The strong growth in the number of postings and deductions on social contributions paid by employers has provoked criticism from European interest associations.
The European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW) has calculated that Slovenia posts at least 100,000 construction workers to the EU even though it has only 55,000 domestic workers in the industry. Most of them come via Slovenia from the Western Balkans.
This is why the federation submitted a request to the EU Commission at the end of May to investigate the practice and its regulation in Slovenia.
"Slovenia has built a money-spinning business model based on social fraud and worker exploitation. This is totally unacceptable and should be stopped at once," said the EFBWW president Dietmar Schäfers.
The commission has also received complaints from interest groups in Austria, while the country itself has said it will try to engage in dialogue with Slovenia before taking any such step.
Slovenian posting companies have been accused of exporting workforce to the EU at dumping prices as Slovenian labour costs are lower, which makes workers from Slovenia cheaper.
Meanwhile, the Slovenian government has acknowledged that the situation provided food for thought regarding necessary measures.
Slovenia's regulation entails that posting companies need to obtain an A1 document which allows posting temporary workers to other member states and is issued in accordance with the EU legislation by a relevant district unit of the ZZZS.
According to the Labour Ministry, a special task force is examining relevant regulations from 1970, including those governing the social contribution deductions for employers, and drawing up measures to reform them.
Responding to the criticism of the increase in the number of posted workers and worker exploitation, the Labour Ministry told the STA that the transnational provision of services act, which tightened regulations for issuing A1 documents, had been adopted last year.
The law aims to prevent cross-border posting of workers by mailbox companies or employers, particularly in construction and industry, who have already violated regulations, thus tackling worker exploitation, which has been a critical issue.
According to the Labour Inspectorate, there have been 20 violations of the act in 2018.
On the other hand, the ZZZS, which is in charge of revoking issued A1 documents, recorded more than 17,450 irregularities, including over 6,400 tax-related and over 6,300 pertaining to employment contracts.
Foreign authorities have been submitting requests about checking conditions compliance of posting companies or revoking their posting permits to the institute, which has received around 10 such requests by June this year.
According to the ZZZS, the issue is complex and hard to tackle, while Goran Lukič of the Workers' Counselling Office told the STA that the new act somewhat improved the situation even if he is still sceptical about its enforcement.
Meanwhile, Slovenian employers' associations deny the accusations of Slovenia being a kind of gateway for social dumping in Europe.
The Slovenian Employers' Association (ZDS) told the STA that given the amount of labour costs in Slovenia one could not speak about dumping, while the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) said that it was key that foreign workers who got work permits in Slovenia and ended up working in other EU countries were paying their social contributions and income tax in Slovenia.
STA, 12 July 2019 - The opposition Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi) have joined the initiative of Slovenian workers who commute to Austria for a constitutional review of what they see as discriminatory income tax legislation.
While the union of Slovenian migrant workers asked the top court to review the income tax act in November 2018, Franc Breznik of the SDS told the press on Friday that the two parties urged the court to give the matter absolute priority treatment.
"This is a very burning issue in particularly in the east on the country, an issue that is perhaps not felt so much in Ljubljana," he said.
Slovenians working abroad but residing in Slovenia pay part of the taxes in Austria and additional income tax in Slovenia, which the NSi's Jožef Horvat said leaves them with less disposable income compared to workers with similar income in Slovenia.
"If both make EUR 18,700 gross a year, the worker in Slovenia has EUR 1,750 more disposable income than the one working in Austria," he said.
Horvat, who highlighted a different tax treatment of food and transport allowances as a key source of the discrepancy, said the situation was at odds with a Constitutional Court reasoning from 2013 that put commuting migrant workers on "essentially equal" footing with their compatriots in Slovenia as regards income tax, "which means our legal order should treat them equally".
He added the current arrangement was also at odds with the principle of the welfare sate, since the segment of commuting migrant workers with high income is subjected to a more favourable treatment when it comes to the mentioned allowance costs.
Responding to the original initiative for a constitutional review a while ago, the Finance Ministry said that exempting Slovenian workers commuting abroad from income tax would be systemically unacceptable and violate the constitutional principle of equal tax treatment.
All of our stories on tax in Slovenia are here
STA, 15 July 2019 - The average gross salary in Slovenia was at EUR 1,728.12 gross in May and EUR 1,113.88 net. Compared to May 2018, average gross salary was 3.9% higher in nominal terms and 2.5% higher in real terms. Net salary was 3.4% higher in nominal terms and 2% higher in real terms compared to the May of last year, according to the Statistics Office.
The highest net wages were paid out in the financial and insurance sector, EUR 1,556.92 net. Compared to April, average gross and net pay was 0.1% lower in nominal terms and 1% lower in real terms.
In the public sector, net salaries went up by 0.7% on average in May over April, while in the private sector, the average net pay went down by 0.6% compared to April.
STA, 5 June 2019 - Slovenia ranks ninth among 22 EU member states that have statutory minimum wages in terms of the gross minimum wage rate. This year's increase of the country's figure to EUR 886.63 was among the modest ones, says the annual report on minimum wages in the EU and Norway, published by Eurofound on Monday.
The highest rate was registered in Luxembourg (EUR 2071.10), while Bulgaria has the lowest (EUR 286.33).
The report of the EU Agency for the improvement of living and working conditions placed Slovenia among the countries with the lowest share of minimum wage earners - 4.1%. The country ranked sixth in this category, with Czechia (2%) ranking the lowest and Poland ranking the highest (13.7%).
The survey registered big differences among all participating countries in this category, noting that in 2016 the average share of minimum wage earners in the EU was 7.2%.
Eurofund also pointed at considerable differences between the gross and net rates, saying that in Slovenia a share of 24.77% of the total minimum wage value is contributed to the social security system, including taxes and contributions. The country's share is among the higher ones in that respect.
The survey said that almost all countries, excluding Latvia, had increased the minimum wage rate since January 2018, with Slovenia raising it by 5.2% in nominal terms. The increase was quite modest, listing the country as third in the group of six countries with mid-level minimum wage rates - Slovenia ranked behind Malta (1.93%) and Portugal (3.45%).
The issue of minimum wage rate has been in the spotlight recently. The National Assembly adopted the Left's proposal for the minimum wage act in December 2018 despite employers' opposition, thus raising the rate.
The act stipulates that all allowances will be excluded from the statutory rates as of 2020 and will thus have to be paid on top. It also regulates the rate's lower and upper limit, setting the bar at at least 20% and top 40% above calculated minimum living expenses.
Employers argue that the adoption was rash and will have a detrimental effect on the whole society, while trade unions are willing to protect the act by any means necessary. Meanwhile, the government keeps insisting that the risks are manageable.
STA, 3 June 2019 - Employers have been struggling with a shortage of staff for a while, so after years of restrictions the door to hiring foreigners are now open wide. Despite several measures aimed at protecting workers from abroad, many of them are being exploited, especially in construction.
During the crisis years, the number of foreigners working in Slovenia plunged, but now that the economy has been expanding, it is rising again.
In 2008, more than 90,500 work permits were issued to third-country workers, while the number dropped to 15,990 together with those who also had a residence permit, data by the Employment Service show.
Last year, a total of 38,938 of single work and residence permits were issued. Most of the foreigners come from the former Yugoslav republics.
Since many of foreign workers were subjected to exploitation in the past, the Labour Ministry has been amending the labour legislation for a decade to prevent abuse. "Today we can say that the legislation in this field guarantees a high level of protection to foreign workers," the ministry told the STA.
A company can only hire a worker from abroad if it is paying out wages and social security contributions, does not have any tax debts to the state, is properly registered, has valid employment contracts, is not in receivership and if a Slovenian candidate cannot be hired for the post.
Those found to be breaking the law can be banned from hiring third-country citizens for up to two years.
But the ministry said it was still hard to prevent cases of deliberate violations, which border on human rights violations.
The Labour Inspectorate, which does not keep a separate record of violations of migrant workers' rights, told the STA that the violations of the act on the employment, self-employment and work of foreigners have been decreasing.
While 229 cases of violations were recorded in 2008, last year there were only 29, mostly in the construction sector.
Since last year, the inspectorate has also been monitoring the implementation of the transnational provision of services act, which was violated in 20 cases.
Last year, the inspectorate also recorded 21 violations of the employment relationships act, which enables fixed-term employment contracts to foreigners. In 73 cases, the rights of workers posted abroad by Slovenian employers were violated, while no violations were found of the article guaranteeing rights to workers temporarily posted to Slovenia.
In 2018, the minimal accommodation standards for foreign workers provided by employers were violated in two cases.
However, the NGO Workers' Counselling Office reports of much more violations. It claims a number of basic rights of migrant workers are being violated. Most concern non-payment of wages, social security contributions, sick leave compensation and overtime work.
Employers are also violating workers' rights when determining their working hours and forcing them into a type of employment contract termination that negatively affects the worker.
The NGO also dealt with cases where workers were checked out of social insurance retroactively and where work-related injuries or physical violence were not reported.
The NGO too receives most grievances from construction workers, but also from lorry drivers and cleaners.
Goran Lukič of the Workers' Counselling Office said the most problematic were the work permits obtained by employers for citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina (and soon also for Serbian citizens) based on a bilateral agreement, under which the worker must work for the company which paid for the permit for one year.
If they want to hold on to their work permit, the workers must stay with the company and are "often caught in forced labour," Lukič told the STA.
STA, 21 May 2019 - Intelligence work is normally an activity shrouded in secrecy, but the Slovenian Intelligence and Security Agency (SOVA) has made an unprecedented decision to enlist new agents in a very public fashion - by publishing a job ad in newspapers and online.
The agency is looking to fill seven job vacancies, including for analysts, tech staff and legal personnel, as well as two jobs described as "acquisition of data with covert cooperation".
The agency said it was looking for "dynamic and motivated staff interested in working in intelligence and security, motivated by the challenges of the work, and willing to adapt to the special nature of the job."
Unlike other government agencies, SOVA is permitted by law to hire people directly and eschew a competitive hiring process, but it has now decided to go public with job postings for the first time in its history.
The job ad, published on Tuesday, is "another step towards the stated goal of improved transparency," SOVA said on its web page.
SOVA director Rajko Kozmelj told the media in the evening that this was a "step towards rejuvenating the agency", while it would also help prevent nepotism in staffing.
Asked whether such an approach would allow SOVA to check all candidates thoroughly enough, he said this would definitely be done.
"Everybody will have to be checked. Even if it takes time, all the requisite procedures will be carried out," Kozmelj told the Kanal A TV channel.
He indicated that a "nearby country" had been negligent in this respect. "We cannot afford to have things go wrong here," he added.
STA, 15 May 2019 - Trade unions have announced they will fight with all available means what they believe are concealed attempts to change the law on minimum wage on demands from employers, as suggested by statements by government officials and debates held by employer representatives. The Labour Ministry denied that changes were in the works.
Speaking at a press conference in Ljubljana on Wednesday, representatives of the trade union confederations ZSSS and Pergam said that they were ready to push for a referendum on the minimum wage law if it was changed.
ZSSS president Lidija Jerkič said that there was an increasing number of signs lately that employer organisations wanted to prevent the provisions eliminating all bonuses from the minimum wage from entering into force in January 2020, as scheduled.
Jerkič said that this was suggested by the statements by PM Marjan Šarec that an agreement should perhaps be found on minimum wage law changes, as well as by Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek about employers warning him about the consequence of the exclusion of all bonuses from the minimum wage.
She also pointed to the recent round table debate of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry discussing the "domino effect of the minimum wage law" and certain statements by representatives of employees.
"If this is intended for testing the will of trade unions, let me reiterate clearly that we will not allow unilateral attempts at changing the legislation," Jerkič said.
If the law gets changed without the consent of trade unions, they will use all available means, including referendum, she said, adding that talks about a postponement of the exclusion of bonuses was out of the question.
Find out the average pay for various jobs in Slovenia here
The minority government's partner in the opposition, the Left, also sided with the trade unions and said it would help collect the needed signatures to have a referendum called.
Luka Mesec, the leader of the Left, said that profits were growing in "leaps and bounds", going from EUR 169 million in 2013 to EUR 4.2 billion last year.
Aljoša Čeč, the secretary general of Pergam, also said that employers were undermining social dialogue by trying to change the minimum wage legislation.
ZSSS vice-president Ladi Rožič said that, given the announcements that the Slovenian economy as a whole made EUR 4.2 million in net profit last year, claiming that the minimum wage would destroy the economic model was "unwise and unproductive".
The Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Ministry responded by saying that it detected no anomalies or derogations that would require a change in legislation.
It added that the minimum wage must be high enough to allow a decent living without the aid of social transfers.
All out stories on the minimum wage in Slovenia are here
STA, 13 May 2019 - Employers have been pointing to their difficulties in finding qualified new employees for quite some time, but the situation has only been worsening to the point when it looks more dire than it was in 2008, before the economic crisis. Employers' organisations thus urge the authorities to take action by promoting economic migrations.
Employers have been hiring foreigners to alleviate the shortage, but the manpower pool of the former Yugoslav republics is depleting as well.
The organisations thus expect the government to speed up measures to tackle the issue and come up with a strategy for promoting economic migrations.
According to the Employment Service's data, in the past six months, almost 50% of employers were faced with the shortage, with the share standing at 70% among large companies.
The deficiency is most pronounced in the restaurant business (69%), construction (62%), social and health care (62%) and manufacturing (56%).
"Employers often encounter problems when trying to recruit employees for jobs which are paid less, physically demanding and/or come with demanding working schedules. There's also the issue of finding candidates for technical jobs requiring specific skills which are difficult to be obtained quickly by not (yet) trained and inexperienced people," said the service.
Increasing systemic discrepancies are present in the labour market, according to the service, with the number of available jobs growing, and the number of jobless decreasing.
As a result, the share of the unemployed with primary education or without it is increasing, same as the share of jobless people who are limited in finding employment and require active support.
On the other hand, the share of the unemployed disabled people is decreasing more slowly than the share of all unemployed people.
Employers are thus trying to fill in the gaps by adopting measures such as overtime or temporary increased workload, recruiting through temping agencies, encouraging the young to find jobs more quickly, discussing post-retirement work with older employees and attracting foreign employees, the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) Samo Hribar Milič has told the STA.
The Slovenian Employers' Association (ZDS) secretary general Jože Smole also said that recruiting foreign employees was one of the key ways to tackle this issue.
According to the Employment Service, the number of work permits increased from 14,811 in 2015 to 18,049 in 2018. The numbers do not include single residence-work permits, with 1,180 of them being issued in 2015 and a significantly higher number of them in 2018 - 20,889.
In the first four months of this year, 9,693 foreigners obtained permits to reside and work in Slovenia. But getting such permits does not automatically denote receiving a work permit at the administrative unit in charge.
The majority of foreign recruits are from the former Yugoslav republics. Slovenia issued 16,596 work permits to citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina last year, 1,281 to citizens of Croatia, and 140 to citizens of Serbia.
The share of single residence-work permits was highest in case of migrant workers from Serbia, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Russia.
Employers criticise the length of procedures for hiring employees from third countries. Moreover, they have been waiting a year for the ratification of the treaty on employing Serbian citizens in Slovenia.
The protocol for implementing the treaty was signed in November last year, but the ratification has not taken place yet. However, employers caution that the manpower pool in the former Yugoslavia is being drained as well.
Hribar Milič thus called for ratification of treaties which would enable employing citizens of countries such as Ukraine and Belarus. He also urged the authorities to follow Germany's example and establish offices in charge of employing third-country nationals, for example in Sarajevo, Kiev or Skopje.
"The state already promised that, but has still not delivered on it," he pointed out.
The newspaper Delo recently reported that around a third of the foreigners getting work permits in Slovenia used that opportunity as a stepping stone for migrating to another EU country.
Commenting on this, Hribar Milič said that GZS member companies had been pointing that out, having invested in foreign recruitment only to be faced with recruits moving on to other EU countries.
He denied accusations of Slovenia importing workforce to the EU at dumping prices as Slovenian labour costs are lower, which makes workers from Slovenia cheaper. He said the accusations were based on individual cases, which should be sanctioned by law.
Smole said that given the amount of labour costs in Slovenia one could not speak about dumping.
He expects the government to step up action mitigating the manpower drain, reduce red tape and come up with an operational strategy for economic migrations.
On the other hand, the GZS is pleased about its collaboration with the Employment Service since the latter is developing personalised training and further courses for the unemployed in cooperation with the organisation. However, Hribar Milič concluded that there was room for improvement in that respect as well.
All our stories about employment in Slovenia are here
STA, 9 May 2019 - The number of job vacancies and occupied posts in Slovenia increased in the first quarter of 2019, which reflected in the highest job vacancy rate (2.6%) after 2008, the Statistics Office said on Thursday.
In the first three months of the year the job vacancy rate was the highest in construction (7.1%) and in administrative and support service activities (5.1%), and the lowest (0.3%) in electricity.
Slightly over 20,400 job vacancies were recorded, 1,200 more than in the previous quarter, when the job vacancy rate stood at 2.5%. Slovenia recorded the lowest job vacancy rate (0.6%) in the second half of 2009, just before the financial crisis.
Most of the job vacancies were recorded in manufacturing, construction and trade. In the first three months of the year employers with 10 or more persons in paid employment advertised slightly more than 12,600 job vacancies. This is almost 500 more than in the previous quarter and is a record high since 2008.
Seasonally adjusted data show that the number of occupied posts has been increasing since the second quarter of 2014. In the first quarter of 2019 around 766,500 posts were occupied, 4,700 more than in the previous quarter.
All our stories on employment in Slovenia are here
STA, 6 May 2019 - The newspaper Delo noted in Monday's editorial that it is commendable that Slovenia is the third most popular destination for workers from the Balkans, but also warns against overpopulating the country with foreigners, wondering "whether Slovenia should leave the door fully open for all".
Young people are leaving Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Kosovo as they are demoralised, they do not see any future at home, the paper says under the headline Our Own Ground Under Our Feet.
People are also leaving Croatia en masse, although the country is doing much better than its neighbours. What contributes to this is also the overall globalisation, with young people emigrating all over the world.
Slovenia is the third most popular destination for people from the Balkans for life and work, after Switzerland and Germany, which is actually commendable for the country. It means that life is good in Slovenia, the paper notes.
If Slovenia needs foreign labour force, citizens of the former Yugoslav republics are certainly the most favourable immigrants. Slovenians have many things in common with them, but there are also differences, because of which the former state disintegrated in the first place.
Delo says that the current increase in immigration should be analysed. "If it continues, in ten years a quarter of Slovenia's population will be foreigners," it says, adding that mechanisms for the integration of every foreigner individually should be established.