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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    SAT, 23 MAR 1996 18:24:25 GMT

    Journalists and Physicians on Strike

    THE WINTER OF THEIR DISCONTENT

    "A state where journalists and physicians are on strike at the same time must be seriously ailing or, at least, hard of hearing", a journalist, Mitja Mersol, wrote not without reason, but with a minor correction - at the moment the strike of the men in white began in Slovenia, it was declared that the strike of journalists of the national Radio-Television of Slovenia had ended. The public was not too angry because of the strike of the journalists, because there are numerous popular privately-owned radio-television stations, but since numerous physicians who have private practice are members of the same trade union as those employed in state medical institutions, patients have no alternative.

    Both strikes were real - people on strike did not work, in other words, the program was broadcast but without contributions and programs of the journalists, publishing only the most important agency news, and the physicians also promised that they would strike until all their demands were met, and that they would offer only most urgent medical assistance and to seriously ill patients who could not survive without constant care of a physician. Certain hospitals, such as the gynaecological, will work practically normally, in other words, the physicians do not wish their patients to suffer as Hippocratic oath commands them, but they are sick of listening to false promises of the government and ministry of health. Namely, after the "strike of warning" which the physicians went on in December with unanimous support of the public, they were given a lot of promises that their position would be improved, but also appeals were addressed to them not to forget their ethics. Physicians have not forgotten their ethics, but the government has forgotten its promises and the physicians have become tired of working driven only by their ethics. It is necessary to live too, and money is needed for that.

    Physicians (just like journalists of the national RTV) simply demand the salaries they are entitled to - the journalists in accordance with the signed collective contract, and the physicians in compliance with the status and responsibility of their profession. The journbalists demanded that the minimum salary be about 50 thousand tolars (less than 600 German marks), and the physicians nowadays have between 80 thousand tolars (a general practitioner with all the necessary permits to work independently) and 90 thousand tolars which a top-level specialists is paid a month, which is between 900 and a thousand marks. It is really too little. The problem both with the journalists and the physicians is that the state is trying to jam them into the same basket with civil servants, but to pay them less.

    The highest administrative agency of RTV Slovenia includes members nominated by the parliament, that is, people who are members of political parties and who represent their party interests. It is normal that it is in the interest of every political party to control the greatest media. Health service, just like the media, should not be a matter which political parties decide about, but numerous prominent experts in the medical profession, at leading posts in medical centres, the medical school, university clinics of the Clinical Centre and other hospitals in Slovenia, managerial not professional, are also people who advocate party interests and who find these interests more important than interests of the profession, especially than the interests of experts who find the interest of the profession more important than politics. That is why it could happen that directors of medicl centres, who are also physicians, have higher salaries than specialists, leading in their profession, nothing to say about general practitioners in first-aid stations and out-patient clinics. One can become a manager with the support of a political party or leaders of some of the ruling political parties, just as one becomes a minister thanks to membership in a political party. This mechanism of acquiring executive and state positions is normal in the normal structure of the state, but when it transforms into a mechanism for domination of political interests over professional activities which operation of the whole society depends on, such as the sphere of information or health service, then the state, as Mitja Mersol wrote, is either ailing or hard of hearing, or perhaps just pretending to be deaf.

    It is possible to control subjects only if you have the power to decide about their existence. When a subject, aware of his professional power in reference to partial political, that is down-to-earth ruling, wage-labour relation, starts protesting against blackmail, then he admits his powerlessness and recognizes the power of the state. If he demands only higher wages and not fundemental elimination of causes which enabled the state and politics turn him into its subject, it means that the state, even if it raises the wages, has won. That is why reaction of a director of one of the Ljubljana municipal medical centres is both unaccepptable but at the same time quite understandable, when at the meeting with the striking committee conceded the physicians the right to strike, but told them that if their demands were accepted they would have even lower wages than now. Journalists who signed an agreement to temporarily end their strike until April 26, did not report about this because they were still on strike at the time.

    What will happen when on March 27 nurses go on strike? And the teachers and professors have also started to threaten with a strike again!?

    Zoran Odic, AIM