LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - The Slovenian government on Wednesday agreed to raise doctors' wages by a total of as much as 50 million euros per year, and the move prompted other public-sector trade unions to seek wage increases, as well.
The move was agreed in talks with the doctors' trade union, Fides, which followed a partial two-week strike by doctors in November.
Finance Minister Mateja Vranicar Erman told a news conference on Wednesday that she hoped the wage increase would not require rewriting the government's budget. Talks on how to cover the higher wages were continuing, she said.
The government had said it planned to reduce its budget deficit to 1.7 percent of gross domestic product this year from some 2.2 percent in 2016. But analysts said possible further wage increases could put that plan at risk.
"We are in the last year before the general election, so it is expected that trade unions will further increase their wage demands," Borut Hocevar, an analyst at the newspaper Finance, told Reuters.
"The government is too weak to resist those demands but still strong enough to last until the end of its mandate," he added.
The centre-left government of Prime Minister Miro Cerar took power in 2014 with the next general election due in the middle of 2018.
Branimir Strukelj, head of the trade union SVIZ, which represents teachers, told a separate news conference he expected other public-sector wages to rise, as well.
With the wage increase for doctors, "the government in a way announced that it will gradually improve wages also in the rest of the public sector," Strukelj said.
Erman said the government had already put aside funds for wage increases this year but did not elaborate.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry warned last week that wages in Slovenia are rising too fast, which could hurt the country's competitiveness. The government expects the economy to expand by 2.9 percent this year, up from 2.5 percent in 2016.
Slovenia, which narrowly avoided an international bailout for its banks in 2013, managed to return to growth in 2014. A year later, it cut its deficit to below 3 percent of GDP, as required of euro zone members, after running excessive deficits for six years.
Reporting By Marja Novak, editing by Larry King