April 19. 2024. 7:33

The Daily

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Slovenian firefighters become the latest group to demand higher pay

Flares, blasts, and loud chants flooded Ljubljana on Thursday as professional firefighters from all over the country gathered for one of the largest protests against the current government to date, making it the latest group to demand higher pay.

Firefighters (in uniform) held banners with messages such as “Cancer for Minimum Wage” and “Heroes to the People and Idiots to You” as they expressed anger at decision-makers who they say have been making fools out of them.

Firefighters are disappointed with the government’s work, Union official Aleksander Ogrizek said, noting that “top officials only show interest in firefighters when they need us.”

While unionists said some professional firefighters were receiving minimum wage, the government disputes their claims about low pay.

Professional firefighters are among the top earners in the public sector, as their pay has increased by roughly a third since 2015, data released by the government shows. This pace is far faster than in some other segments of the public sector.

If pay increased by eight brackets as they demand, that would mean their wages would be 35% higher than those of police officers, and wage disparities between comparable groups would deepen. “We see the firefighters’ demands as unjustified,” the government said.

The protest was just the latest show of force by public sector unions, which have been putting increasing pressure on the government due to high inflation and because the government yielded to the demands of doctors and kindergarten teachers, triggering a flood of pay demands.

Faced with the danger of the public sector wage bill ballooning, the government has recently embarked on a wholesale reform of the pay system in the public sector, but several groups, teachers included, insist injustices are so grave they have to be addressed before the new system is in place.

Economists are already warning about a wage-price spiral getting out of control, and the Fiscal Council, which monitors compliance with the fiscal rule, recently said there was no fiscal room for additional wage spending.

(Sebastijan R. Maček | sta.si)