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The solution is a comprehensive overhaul of the salary system and an agreement at the negotiating table

On Monday, 8 January 2024, the Government appointed the Government negotiation team for the negotiation of the strike demands of the Union of Doctors and Dentists of Slovenia – Fides, and today invited it to start negotiations on a solution to the strike demands.

A compromise and agreement that is acceptable to both negotiating parties and the public finances, and that benefits patients, can only be reached at a common table and in a constructive dialogue between the Government and the trade unions, not on the shoulders of the sick. The Government regrets that the Fides trade union has decided to go on strike, and therefore invites it once again to engage in a dialogue and appeals to it to call off the announced strike in the interest of all citizens. The strike will impede the provision of health services and limit access to health care.

It is worth noting that the salaries of healthcare sector employees have risen twice in the past year – in January and April. Between October 2022, when the Government and the trade unions reached an agreement to adjust basic salaries by 4.5%, and April 2023, doctors' and dentists' salaries increased by an average of 4.46 pay grades, which represents an annual increase of EUR 80.8 million. Salaries in this salary group have increased by 16.77% on average (comparing the average for the first eight months of 2023 with the average for 2022). The average monthly gross salary in the private sector was 7.4% higher when comparing the average for the first eight months of 2023 with the average for 2022. On average, doctors' monthly salaries increased by EUR 683. The majority of doctors and dentists (out of a total of 7,251) are classified in pay grade 59 (36.17%), which amounts to a gross basic salary of EUR 4,475.

As of April 2023, most public sector employees have received an additional pay grade, which was already the Government’s first step towards eliminating the disparities in basic salaries caused by past governments through partial agreements and interventions in the salaries of only certain sectors. The basic salaries of public employees and holders of public office were increased by 4%, as a result of a one-grade increase in job classifications and titles, and the salary cap was abolished. In December 2023, the Government negotiation team and public sector trade unions also reached an agreement on the alignment of the values of the pay grades within the pay scale and the date of payment of the annual leave allowance in 2024. The agreement provides for the adjustment of the pay scale to 80% of the increase in consumer prices between December 2022 and December 2023 as of 1 June 2024, and for the payment of the annual leave allowance for 2024 at the time of the February 2024 salary payment, by 14 March 2024 at the latest.

The Government wants to regulate the public sector salary system in a comprehensive way, as an early or partial implementation of the agreement on a salary increase for one group could trigger a wave of strikes. Therefore, partial agreements and partial salary increases for only one occupational group are not the right way to find a common consensus and a comprehensive regulation of the salary system.

We are confident that, in dialogue with doctors and dentists, we will establish a system within the framework of the single public sector salary system that responds adequately to today's challenges, and we would like to make it clear that the Government does not support the withdrawal of doctors and dentists from the single public sector salary system.

The Government is vigorously pursuing a step-by-step and comprehensive overhaul of the health system. The recently adopted act governing intervention measures in healthcare introduces, among other things, measures to facilitate the recruitment of foreign doctors. The Government has also introduced a number of measures in order to improve working conditions in the health sector, such as bonuses for family medicine teams, an increased workload allowance for special workloads, bonuses for family medicine specialists and an additional call for medical specialisations.

The Minister of Health Dr Valentina Prevolnik Rupel commented: “I believe that we have enough will and energy on both sides to take this step and that there will be no need for escalation. We are all working together for patients, so we will move quickly to engage in a dialogue. For the benefit of the users of the health system, i.e. the citizens, we thus call on Fides to establish a dialogue and seek a constructive consensus among all parties involved.”