Slovenian labour unions organised a massive rally on Saturday, calling for an increase in minimum wage which – as it stands now – is indeed criminally low and stands at 589 EUR (gross), with net salary amounting to some 460 EUR. With the onset of the crisis and accompanying staggering increase in unemployment (nearing 100k out of 1.06 million strong labour force) households are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. This was one of the reasons for unions (most of them, anyway) to hold what is apparently becoming a traditional biannual late-autumn strike.
Protesters in downtown Ljubljana (source)
Unlike on the past two occasions (2007 and 2005) pengovsky wasn’t there to witness the show first-hand but while the previous to rallies were held in an increasingly expanding economic environment, this latest installant of labour discontent was held just as latest GDP figures were announced (down 8.3 percent) and when it is perfectly obvious that not only are dark clouds gathering (thanks, Adriaan) but that we’re in a middle of a big fucking storm that shows no signs of abating. Despite these differences the theme remained the same. Higher wages.
Something doesn’t seem quite right. If during a period of economic expansion labour unions demanded higher wages, surely they would recognise the futility and counter-productivity of their demands during the Big Slump?
On the other hand, the employers (firms) keep repeating the same theme, too. In 2005 they yearned for relaxing of employment laws (basically demanding that sacking people be made easier) and cutting taxes. In 2007 they pretty much kept to the same tune, saying that “increasing wages would kill productivity and (while we’re on the issue) so do the high taxes and rigid labour laws, so would the government please do something about that?“. And today, in 2009, they make nervous noises that higher wages would sink a lot of companies and while we’re on the issue, would someone please lower the taxes or ease labour laws or preferably both?
Something doesn’t seem quite right. If during the Big Slump companies worry that increasing wages would send them south, then what the hell fuelled their growth during the good days?
And the government? Ah, the government… Seems like the previous one was heavy on money and light on ideas (it ran a deficit during the good years), whereas this one is trying to operate beyond it’s increasingly meagre means.
Something doesn’t seem quite right. If during the Big… ah, screw it. It just ain’t right. Unions, employers and government are sitting tight, repeating oft-heard tunes while the river flows by, carrying more and more corpses. Time to start banging heads together, kids! This thing ain’t gonna solve itself, you know….
2 thoughts on “Strike Three”
… But still, that is what they’re waiting for.
That higher wages aren’t going to solve the problem is perhaps too strong a statement, because the more cash the consumer hcan spend, the better for the economy. But corporations these days only answer to their shareholders and if they see their profits dwindle, people have to go. We’ve all seen that happen so many times, it shouldn’t even surprise us.
And what this whole thing illustrates, is that governments aren’t powerful enough to stop the greedy bastards. It’s simple : if the government tightens the rules and regulations for mulitnationals and corporations, they’ll just take their business elsewhere, with less laws and less wages (read : the Third World countries or China, where there are no pesky unions to hassle them and slave labour for the most minimal of wages is still commonplace). In any case, governments try to mop up the fallout while the tap is still running, which, as you point out so aptly, means going beyond their means, whether it be Slovenija or elsewhere in the EU. Oh, and the EU, of course, is holding up warning signs to their respective states about not overstepping the three percent margin (where the negative growth can’t be more than 3% of the country’s GDP… or something like that; I keep forgetting the right terminology). So any government these days is finding itself pressured from all sides : the labour force to increase their wages, the industry for slackening the rules and the EU for not overstepping the EU mark national budget wise.
Is it any wonder, then, that something’s got to give and it usually comes down to spending beyond your means? There’s just this : you either do it sensibly, which isn’t the case with most governments, or you do it foolishly and erratically, which they seem to have down to a tee…
Wel, the companies and the whole country has been spending too much during the boom times, because these boom times were marked by easy money availability. That fueled the real estate and other prices. The previous gov’t ran a deeficit, of course, just as all the governments previously. It is not in the ruling power hungry politician’s interest to not run a deficit you see. For example, Cinton was the only president since 1070 if not since WWII who managed to run a surplus.
As far as the unions demonstration goes this time, the crisis is getting so bad that they had to show some action, even though they are generally allies with the Pahor’s ruling SD party. But the demands are ridiculous to say the least. “Measly 480 EUR”? It was not long ago when 800-1000 DEM was considered a good monthly salary!
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