A hundred thousand workers staged one of the biggest strikes in Slovenia’s history today to save public services from the right-wing axe.
The strike shut down around 600 schools, limited police intervention to emergencies only and slowed down customs services on the borders.
Trade unionists organised mass rallies in Ljubljana and other towns and cities across the former socialist country.
Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions president Branimir Strukelj told a mass rally outside government headquarters in Ljubljana’s Republic Square: “We will not allow them to kidnap the welfare state.
“We want more co-operation and less competition. No more brutal liberal capitalism, which inevitably leaves the unemployed, poor and impoverished.”
Twenty-three unions representing more than half of the country’s 160,000-strong public-sector workforce called the strike after the right-wing government unveiled proposals to slash state employees’ pay by 7 per cent and take an axe to health and education spending.
The government is also trying to cut the holiday allowances of public-sector staff, parental leave and unemployment payments as part of efforts to reduce public spending by €1 billion (£818 million) this year.
Eighty-five per cent of the nation’s teachers formed the backbone of the protest along with other education professionals.
Veteran trade unionist and Socialist Party of Slovenia activist Dusan Semolic said: “The measures proposed by the government are those of the European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.
“These measures will lead to an even greater crisis in future — unemployment will continue to rise, the number of poor will increase, while the rich will get even richer.”
Other trade unionists called for the “tycoons who have hijacked our country” to be punished for their anti-social crimes.
Before negotiations between union reps and the government resumed yesterday afternoon, Slovenian Labour Minister Andrej Vizjak insisted that “the government must make cuts and reduce public spending by €1bn in 2012.”
Mr Strukelj retorted: “We want a fair deal. Failing that, the state will have initiated a conflict with us, because we will defend the human aspect of our country.”
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