The Kid Who Should Be Tarred And Feathered

I know there are more important subjects to cover, critical to the future of the country finances i.e.: pension reform and the general referendum hoopla including the epic fails (or are they?) of the government ‘yes’ campaign. However, the thing that got me shouting at the TV set yesterday was not the stupidity of putting a silicon-wrecked blonde in front of the camera saying ‘no’ to the reform and hoping for a ‘yes’ result via reverse psychology.

Aleksander Spremo blocking reporter of TV Slovenia from entering offices of Piran Student Club (source)

No, what sent pengovsky on an expletives-laden rant that would make German porn-stars cringe with discomfort was one Aleksander Spremo who, apparently, yesterday last weekend tried to take over the Piran Student Club in the finest manner of muscle democracy where the toughest guy gets the most votes and if you’re not cool with that there’s a big-boned gentleman in the back who sucks at chiropractics to give you a twice-over.

According to a report by TV Slovenia (Slovene only) Spremo and a group of colleagues showed up at a meeting of the Piran Student Club and declared himself president of the club. A stand-off took place which included a police intervention, changing of locks by the municipal authorities (who apparently own offices leased by the club) and even preventing access to journalists by Spremo himself.

Now, all of the above would not merit a blogpost had it not been for one tiny detail. Aleksander Spremo, now a freshman at the Faculty of Law (!) was until recently president of High School Student’ Organisation of Slovenia and was actively involved in student protests against (now dead) law on menial work a year ago which disintegrated into pointless violence and vandalizing the parliament.

The journalist in me knows that there are always two sides to a story. But Spremo’s excuse for frivolous interpretation of democratic standards, namely that the sitting president Rebeka Mahnič “failed to complete a satisfactory number of projects” is flimsy at best and hints at a thinly veiled agenda. What that might be, is almost a no-brainer: student organisations are possibly the last source of money where accountability is a mere after-thought.

I’m not saying that everything was a-OK with Piran Student Club to date (I’ve no information on the club, much less any interest in it’s working), but the very fact that Spremo is involved is disturbing. Namely, this kid, who apparently became the stereotypical arrogant freshman law student should be, instead of trying to muscle his way into a money-pot, hiding under the biggest rock in the darkest hole possible, hoping that no-one will ever remember him, much less find him.

If all things were good and fair in this world, Aleksander Spremo should be tarred and feathered on the spot. But instead he studies law, paid for by the very same state he helped stone a year ago. And he gets to shove journalists around. That he is probably just running bag for someone else is also almost a given. I’m not saying that he hasn’t the mental capacity to cook something like this by himself, but given the fact that things escalated to the point of grown-ups intervening indicates that bigger issues are at play.

Call it a hunch, but I bet this is somehow connected with rumours of emergence of yet another political party in Slovenia. But that will have to wait. Right now I’d just like to express my utter dismay at the fact that 20-something no-goodniks like Spremo, who haven’t an ounce of responsibility and shame, still have the balls to have a go at public matters. Instead, they should be treated to a healthy dose of bitch-slapping.

There, venting session over… 😀


Enhanced by Zemanta

Fear and Loathing of Menial Work

This Sunday Slovenia votes on referendum on menial work, courtesy of student organisations backed by the unions. The law, which is primarily aimed at reforming student work in Slovenia had seen some well organised and stiff opposition both from the student organisations and the unions, who were joined by the right-wing parties of the opposition, thus creating an unholy alliance of special interests aimed at shooting down whatever reform attempts this government undertakes. After the law on menial work we’re up for a referendum on pension reform and as of yesterday Janez Janšas SDS and Zmago Jelinčič‘s SNS teamed up on the law against black market labour.

Last year’s violence makes any argument against menial work null and void

But we’ll deal with those in due course. Today we’re three days away from a vote where campaign brought us a shitload of misinformation, fear-mongering and outright lying on the part of those who oppose it and (it needs to be said) a somewhat lacklustre campaign on the part of the government. In case you haven’t done so yet, it is high time for you to pop over to drfilomena’s who put together an awesome post on the issue (Slovene only) and you can see why, despite certain drawbacks, we’d all be better off if the law were indeed enacted.

Going biblical on their asses

Having said that, pengovsky has a couple of axes to grind. First and foremost: if all were good and fair in this world, after what happened on 19 May last year when the anti-menial-work demo went bad, student organisations and everybody who assisted them in that sordid enterprise (unions included) would be hiding under a rock somewhere.

As far as I’m concerned, anyone who indulges in senseless violence and destruction has no legitimacy whatsoever to be a part of the public debate. I honestly don’t give a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys if last year’s demonstration just got out of control or whether the three-hour-long rampage was premeditated and planned. Organisers and supporters of that particular rally failed to assume responsibility for the mayhem with people in charge actually fleeing the scene. Without a sincere apology and financial and/or legal consequences, any and all arguments against menial work are null and void. If those who oppose the law cannot face the consequences of their actions, they are in no position to judge actions of others.

But since going biblical on their assess is of little use save venting off some extra steam, let’s look at the reasons for this unholy alliance forming in the first place.

Special interests

As things stand now, student work is in fact unfair competition to regular labour market. Being a student entitles you to work within a very broad framework virtually without limit either in labour hours or monies earned (at some point you get taxed, but the ceiling is set so high no one really worries about that). On the other hand however, student work spiralled out of control and is becoming mainstream, not the “alternative” labour market. Given the near infinite supply of students workforce (which is performing even the most complex and responsible tasks), there is precious little incentive for employers to take on people full-time. Thus students find themselves in a viscous circle where they are actually forced to keep studying (at least formally) for as long as possible, since losing student status also means losing your job and only gets you a one-way ticket to the dole office.

And this is precisely the reason why labour unions are against the new law. Menial work disbands the student-only labour market and brings in pensioners and the unemployed, endangering the status quo that exists in the job market. Not that things are rosy in that department at all, but rather than being proactive, Slovene labour unions chose to defend the current (unsustainable) situation at all costs. And that includes the pension reform. Their goals are short term and so are their actions.

Student organisations, who in theory should have a vested interest in students finding jobs as soon as possible have instead become used to the substantial income from commissions on student work. They take a ten-percent cut out of all earnings students make under the current system. How that money is spent, no one knows, because there is no oversight, neither internal nor external. In fact Student organisation of Slovenia (the student umbrella institution) has so much autonomy that it can rightly be called a state-within-a-state. Obviously, they are keen on keeping the status quo as well.

And the opposition… Well, they follow a brutally simple logic: whatever is bad for this government is good for them, future of the country be damned.

The honest ones

Just about the only honest criticism of the new law goes long the lines that the new law fails to address problems of the existing system and will still enable abuse by some, forcing others to pay for those excesses. This post by Zloba (also in Slovenian) also writes to that effect. Personally, I think this is a flawed logic. Not just because the new law provides for a centralised database of who’s working where and for how long, but also because it imposes (in my opinion) effective limits both on duration and amount of menial labour an employer can engage. Anything above the limit and the employer in question will have to find other alternatives to get the job done, not just rely on cheap student workforce whose social and health insurance is paid for by the taxpayers.

Namely, under the new law people the time on menial work would count towards people’s retirement age and provide them with social and health insurance as well as additional stipend funds, all of which would be taxed off their income. Given the fact that it will no longer be a student-only labour market, this automatically means more funds for those particular ends.

What if…

However, there’s an alternative: if the law on menial work is rejected on Sunday, the government might just as well abolish the student labour market, forcing students to either make it on their allowances and/or stipends or compete in the real job market, working on contracts or as private entrepreneurs with full benefits and taxations thereof. The current situation is unbearable and is in fact working against students’ interests.

Politically, there is a lot riding on this. The few polls that were made on the issue suggest, that the law will be rejected on Sunday. Should this really happen, it will be a substantial blow to the already beleaguered government of Borut Pahor which again got only about 20 % approval rating. The possible rejection of the menial work will not bring down the government, but it will be a bad omen for the upcoming and way more important referendum on pension reform. Should that particular piece of legislation also be rejected, then Slovenia will really find itself in deep shit. In that case pengovsky would not be surprised to see PM Pahor tender his resignation.


Enhanced by Zemanta

The Mother Of All Referendums (Slovenia Twenty Years After)

Twenty years ago on this day Slovenes voted on a referendum on independence. The question on 23 December 1990 was straightforward: Should Slovenia become a sovereign and independent country. The decision, as we know, was also fairly straightforward. With record voter turnout (93,5%) as much as 88,5% of all voters voted in favour on what will turn out to be the mother of all Slovenian referendum.

Official Gazette of Republic of Slovenia publishes the law on referendum on independence (source)

Twenty years later the situation seems all but hopeless. The crisis is in full swing, politics and politicians have virtually no credibility left and referendums are a-dime-a-dozen. In the words of the Charlie Watts quartet: You can’t always get what you want.

But really, is it that bad? On one hand, yes. I’m sure people would vote “no” in 1990 if the question would be something along the lines of “Do you want Slovenia to become a country of ever increasing social inequality, political bickering and a seemingly endless supply of either real or perceived scandals and corruption)”.

On the other hand, things are not that bad. I mean, they’re not that bad if one looks at them from the standpoint of 1990s. The issues we are faced with today are nothing compared to the issues Slovenia was facing back then. Twenty years ago it was about survival. It was about whether the nation can make a right choice collectively and hoping that this choice will be proven to have been right some time in the distant future. Today we can, regardless of the despair and dejectedness a lot of people are facing, say that the choice was right. And although – with the power of hindsight – it looks today that it was the only logical choice, that was not the case. It could all have ended very very badly. But it didn’t. Thankfully.

Anniversaries are a welcome interruption to our daily routine and they often remind us that there are issues bigger than our daily problems. That anniversaries are often used or misused to promote a particular political goal is regretful but no-one will get killed over it. That myths are being constructed is also just a sad fact. That Slovenia will today witness not one, but two celebrations – one official organised by the governement of Borut Pahor, the other one organised by Janez Janša and people who claim they represent “the true values” of Slovene independence is a curious fact which serves some immediate political purpose of the opposition, but nothing beyond that.

Because (as the good doctor often says), what everyone keeps forgetting is that there would be no independence without the people of this country, who bit the bullet and leapt into the unknown. That a selected group of individuals today claims exclusive rights to interpretation of events around 23 December 2010 is demeaning to this nation.

Independence today is what we make of it, for better or for worse. Reminding us “what it was all about” helps, but only to the point where it saves us from making the same mistake over and over. Anything beyond that is counter-productive. And there seems to be a lot of that going around lately. And in times of crisis one shuns what is not helpful 😀

Enhanced by Zemanta