Minister of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities has announced the creation of a directorate for “economic democracy.” The actual tasks and jurisdiction of the directorate are still unclear. The directorate will supposedly be in charge of writing legislation which will make it easier for the owners of companies to “let go” of their ownership, and of creating a financial mechanism through which buy-outs by workers will be financed. It seems that this is just a disguised plan (or the first step) to the nationalisation of private property. At this point, bells should be ringing throughout the country. To vaguely quote MP Kordiš, the chasing of entrepreneurs into the sea with bayonets has begun.
According to the Minister, at least in the initial phase, these are to be mechanisms that allow the voluntary purchase of part of the ownership of the company. But what happens when the authorities “realise” that workers or employees simply do not have the capital to buy up shares of the companies that will be large enough to even count towards anything? For companies in low-value-added industries, this is a very likely scenario. Will the state finance the buy-out and thus nationalise private companies without the consent of their owners? What happens when the owner does not want to sell a stake in the company to the managers on his management board? Will the
state jump to the rescue and simply expropriate the owner in favour of his employees?
The Minister’s description of the situation at the Domel company offers a glimpse into the sinister future. The employees in the company are said to be “in distress.” Not because of poor working conditions or exploitative wages. No, the employees are in distress because they cannot forcibly buy their share of the company from the owners. To put this into more concrete terms, this is as if, in a land border dispute between two landowners, one neighbour were to claim that the other is causing him distress because he refuses to sell him a share of his land. The Domel story, however, has an additional layer of bizarreness. In this company, some of the management and employees had already bought part of the company some years ago. Today, a good part of those who financed the buy-out themselves are retired. Minister Luka Mesec commented on the situation: “Domel is at risk of external owners eventually becoming majority owners, and they, unlike the employees, want high dividends, not higher wages and better working conditions.” To put it in plain terms: someone who has worked all their life, who believed in a company and invested their own resources into it, earned by working in that company, will now have to let go of their ownership at the expense of their former colleagues. Involuntarily. Indeed, if this were a voluntary sale of shares, it would have already taken place.
Domel’s model and the solution proposed by Mesec is, if you pardon my expression, small-minded, and can only be proposed by a person who is economically illiterate, who claims that the new socialist government will build housing at the cost of 7 euros per square metre, or that Slovenian exporters are our Achilles’ heel. Luka Mesec is the infamous author of both of these statements. Has Luka Mesec ever asked himself what happens when the new owners, who were able to get part of the ownership of the company under the concept of compulsory purchase, retire? Will they be “relieved” of their ownership, too?
Spreading the legalised theft model across Slovenia But Mesec does not intend to stop at Domel. “The possibility of establishing a system of employee ownership will, as a result of the adoption of the law, also be open to all other companies that see added value in this for themselves and their employees,” he said. Apparently, some kind of socialist literacy workshop will be organised for everyone in the country. A supportive environment for “economic democracy” is to be created, with mentoring schemes, expert support, training, and so on. The state will thus educate and raise awareness of the positive aspects of socialist self-management, and this will be aimed primarily at the owners of medium-sized and small enterprises. All this will be accompanied by international networking. Perhaps with some experts from Venezuela. At this point, Slovenian entrepreneurs should do some concrete self-reflection, especially those who have been fooled by the rhetoric of the socialist monopoly in power.
The directorate will likely be operational in 2023 It is not yet known when the directorate will be operational. Minister Mesec did not have a specific answer to the concrete question of Jelka Godec, the head of the Slovenian Democratic Party (Slovenska demokratska stranka – SDS) parliamentary group. Initially, it was planned that the area of “economic democracy” would be part of the newly created Ministry for a “Solidarity-Based Future.” Then, in September,
Mesec assured everyone that there would be no new ministry, after which Prime Minister Robert Golob rejected his claims and said that if the referendum were to be successful, ministers would be appointed for all three new portfolios. We have also reported on this dispute in the article entitled “Mesec has given up on the idea, the future is clearly not going to be solidarity-based,” which is available here (in Slovenian).