Ljubljana, 14 February (STA) – After passing changes to the employment relationships act, the parliamentary Labour Committee also unanimously endorsed changes to the labour market act on Thursday, which means the government-sponsored labour market reform passed second reading.

On second reading the committee endorsed around 75 amendments, including one under which unemployment benefits in the first three months of joblessness would decrease less than initially proposed.

The Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs initially proposed cutting unemployment benefits for the first three months from 80% to 70% of previous earnings, which trade unions opposed.

Under the amendment agreed by social partners unemployment benefit would be 80% of the base in the first three months, 60% in the following ten months and 50% beyond that.

The opposition Positive Slovenia (PS) and Social Democrats (SD) filed each their own amendments that envisaged higher benefits, which were favoured by trade unions.

But the committee heeded Labour Minister Andrej Vizjak’s call to confirm the compromise proposal that had been agreed by the social partners.

He said that EUR 300m was spent on unemployment benefits in 2011 and that the difference between the committee’s amendment and the amendments sponsored by the PS and SD was between EUR 10m and EUR 12m.

An agitated debate was provoked by the first article of the bill, which defines temporary and odd jobs. Part of the unions is opposed to such forms of work, while employers want them for pensioners and the unemployed.

The ministry set out to introduce the option of such form of work for everyone out of employment, but the unions categorically rejected the option. A later proposal of temp and odd jobs for older unemployed also fell through, but the solution that remains in the bill envisages such form of work for pensioners.

The Pergam confederation of trade unions is opposed to temp and odd jobs as a matter principle, arguing that such an institute would not contribute to reducing the segmentation of the labour market.

The ZSSS trade union association was ready to consent to odd jobs for pensioners, but executive secretary Goran Lukič agreed with Pergam that fears as to the unwanted effects of temp jobs were grounded.

Jože Smole of the Employers’ Association said that employers had expected much more than what was on the table now. He said that temp and odd jobs were a flexible form of work that would be voluntary and would be paid decently, plus would generate social contributions.

Considering the scope of undeclared work, Smole argued that this type of work could be introduced not only for pensioners but also for all the unemployed.

Minister Vizjak rejected trade unions’ fears that odd jobs for pensioners would bring a new precarious form of work, suggesting that the Employment Service could set up an agency for temporary and odd jobs to involve the unemployed more actively in the labour market.

To alleviate unions’ fears, the committee backed the SD-sponsored amendment under which the ministry would have to draw up a report on the effects of temp and odd jobs for pensioners after 12 months of the reform’s implementation. This should prevent such work from becoming competition to regular forms of work for those aged 50+.