By Marja Novak
LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - Most schools in Slovenia were closed on Wednesday as some 38,000 teachers held a one-day strike for higher wages in the largest labour protest so far this year.
Later on Wednesday some 15,000 teachers are expected to attend a mass protest in the centre of Ljubljana to tell the government that their work is undervalued.
"We demand that the average teacher's wage be increased by about 10 percent as teachers are now paid significantly less than other people with similar education, like doctors and those who work in public administration," Sandi Modrijan, a spokesman of teachers' trade unions SVIZ, told Reuters.
The centre-left government is under pressure from public sector trade unions who are demanding wage hikes amid robust economic growth. Analysts say the demands also reflect the expectation that the government might be more generous ahead of a national election expected in June.
Last month about 30,000 public sector employees staged a one-day strike, while police officers began their strike on Monday. Nurses stopped working for two hours on Tuesday, also demanding higher wages.
The government has said the wage demands amount to almost 1 billion euros ($1.24 billion), adding they are mostly unacceptable as they are not justified by productivity growth and could threaten the planned fiscal consolidation.
The government plans to end 2018 with a budget surplus of 0.4 percent, versus a deficit of some 0.8 percent last year.
Slovenia, which narrowly avoided an international bailout for its banks in 2013 returned to growth a year later and the government expects the economy to expand by 3.9 percent this year versus some 4.4 percent in 2017, boosted by exports and investments.
($1 = 0.8087 euros)
(Reporting by Marja Novak; Editing by Alison Williams)