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Strikes put austerity spotlight on Slovenia

Strikes put austerity spotlight on Slovenia
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About 80,000 public sector workers in Slovenia walked off the job on Wednesday as parliament was due to begin debating plans for deep public sector cuts.

Until the financial crisis, the Alpine state was the eurozone’s fastest growing economy. But Slovenia faces similar belt-tightening to most other countries in the 17 member bloc, with it’s 2011 deficit reaching 6.4 of GDP. Officials plan to cut it in half this year.

“We have to resist the measures coming from the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Those measures which our politicians so blindly copy,” said Dusan Semolic, President of the Alliance of Independent Unions.

Unions said workers could expect pay cuts of around 7 and a half percent at a time when the private sector lost 120,000 jobs.

Unemployment soared to 12.4 percent in February from around 7 percent in 2008.

Medical worker Domeik Densa said workers have no alternative but to strike: “You see what wages are like? We get nothing. We have to take to the streets or things won’t get any better.”

“I am here to fight for my grandchildren. I worry whether our children will be able to keep their jobs,” said Franc Nagode, a retiring university professor.

Wednesday’s strike left hospitals empty and more than 600 schools shut.