Thursday, 10 October 2019

HNS Threatens to Leave Government Unless Teachers' Wages Are Raised

ZAGREB, October 10, 2019 - The leader of the Croatian People's Party (HNS), Ivan Vrdoljak, said on Wednesday evening that the party's MPs were not going to vote for the 2020 budget unless it provided for a 4.3 percent increase of the job complexity index for teachers.

The HNS will not stay in the government unless the job complexity index and teachers' wages are raised because this is the party's priority, Vrdoljak told the press after a meeting of the HNS leadership.

After the process of conciliation between the government and teachers' unions has failed, the unions have announced a strike in all primary and secondary schools for Thursday because the government did not meet their demands for an increase of the job complexity index.

The secretary-general of the ruling HDZ, Gordan Jandroković, said on Wednesday there would be more talks on the ultimatum by the Croatian People's Party (HNS) that it would leave the ruling coalition if wages in education were not raised, adding that the HDZ would not accept ultimatums and that it was ready for every option.

There's no need for anyone to make ultimatums because that's not the way to arrive at a solution, Jandroković told reporters after a ruling coalition meeting which discussed HNS president Ivan Vrdoljak's statement that his party would leave the coalition unless next year's budget envisaged a 4.3% rise of the job complexity index in education.

Jandroković would not speculate on whether the government could survive without the HNS. "Talks are still possible, then we'll see... The HDZ is the coalition's central party. We have understanding for the positions of our coalition partners. We are willing to talk. But I repeat, we are ready for every option if necessary."

As for a strike in elementary and high schools announced for Thursday, he called for reason. "We are willing to raise salaries, which can be seen in the three years of the Andrej Plenković cabinet's term during which average salaries have gone up 12%," Jandroković said, adding that the base pay in education had gone up "by about 11.5%."

He said that under the government's latest proposal, salaries would go up another 4%, making the total in three years about 15%. "It's a marked rise. Of course, if possible, it would be even more. However, we must also take into account state finances, the viability of the financial system. There are police officers, there are customs officers, there's a whole set of sectors which would also ask for higher wages. We can give only how much the state has."

The ruling coalition also discussed a new schedule for national holidays and memorial days, and Jandroković said the partners supported the HDZ's motion.

More HNS news can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Primary and Secondary School Teachers to Strike on Thursday

ZAGREB, October 9, 2019 - Croatian primary and secondary school teachers will go on strike on Thursday, leaders of the two biggest teachers' unions said after failed talks with the government, which refused their demand for a 6% wage increase.

Today's second round of conciliation talks between the NSZSSH and SHU unions and the government was unsuccessful, with the government refusing to agree to the unions' demand for a 6% increase of the job complexity index.

The strike will start in primary and secondary schools on October 10, NSZSSH leader Branimir Mihalinec said, adding that all teaching and non-teaching staff in primary and secondary schools would go on strike.

As of Friday, union action will continue with a rotating strike, taking place in different counties each day, until the unions' demands are met.

Labour and Pension System Minister Josip Aladrović said on Wednesday, after failed conciliation talks with teachers' unions, which are to start a strike in primary and secondary schools on Thursday, that the unions rejected the government's offer of a 2% wage increase as of October 1 and as of June 1, 2020.

"The conciliation procedure has been completed. The unions showed up with the same demands. The government made an offer to raise their wages by two percent as of October 1 this year and by another two percent as of 1 June 2020. The annual cumulative cost of that would be 320 million kuna," Aladrović said.

"We had to take care of financial sustainability and responsibility towards the state budget and that was our maximum offer," he stressed.

He added that an extra 500 million kuna had already been ensured this year for teachers' wages.

"The unions wanted a change in the job complexity index. Since that was not a subject of the negotiations, we could not accept it, but we presented an alternative to improve the financial status of teachers in primary and secondary schools. Unfortunately, that evidently was not enough for the unions and they turned our proposal down," said the minister.

More news about strikes in Croatia can be found in the Business section.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Decision on Teachers' Strike to Be Known on Wednesday

ZAGREB, October 7, 2019 - The conciliation procedure between the government and school unions continues on Wednesday, when it will be known if on October 10 teachers in primary and secondary schools will go on strike as announced, participants in the first conciliation round, held on Monday, told the press.

The leaders of the Croatian Teachers Union (SHU) and the Independent Union of Secondary School Employees (NSZSSH), Sanja Šprem and Branimir Mihalinec, on Monday morning started a conciliation procedure with Labour Minister Josip Aladrović in a collective dispute over the unions' demand for a wage increase.

After the three-hour meeting, Minister Aladrović told reporters that it had been agreed with the unions to continue the conciliation procedure on Wednesday.

Mihalinec said that the unions had accepted the government's proposal to continue with the conciliation procedure and added that it would be known on Wednesday if the announced strike in primary and secondary schools would be held on October 10.

"If the conciliation procedure is successful, we will stop our protest and strike activities. If not, we will inform the public of the modalities of the strike," Mihalinec said.

The unions said before the start of the conciliation procedure that they would not give up on their demand of a 6.11% increase in the job complexity index and would discuss only the modalities and pace of achieving that goal during the conciliation procedure.

Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak said that she still hoped an agreement would be reached and that the strike would not be held.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said last Friday the government had offered school unions the maximum it could this year, a 2% increase of the job complexity index, and that it was necessary to find a balance.

Speaking at a press conference, he said the government could not accommodate the unions' demand for a 6% increase this year.

"We have also proposed that talks should continue at a later date, but now, when I don't have the whole picture of next year's state budget, I can't commit to something for which I haven't made calculations. Those are not small amounts, they concern a large number of people, it's necessary to have a budget for that."

More education news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

President Receives Leaders of School Teachers' Unions

ZAGREB, October 5, 2019 - President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović has received the leaders of the unions of primary and secondary school teachers, Sanja Šprem and Branimir Mihalinec respectively, who informed her about the unions' demands and the course of negotiations with the government.

The president said that ever since she took office, she had advocated that all pupils in Croatia have the same conditions for education, her office said in a press release on Saturday.

The president said that the teachers who are fully committed to their work should be acknowledged, rewarded and asked for their opinions. "We must move away from educational models of the past and give the best teachers more because they give our children the most," she said.

Congratulating all teachers on World Teachers' Day, which is observed on October 5, Grabar-Kitarović said that we should all strive to give this honourable and important profession back its well-deserved dignity.

Strong support is needed from the whole society, especially from parents who can make an active contribution to the constructive creation and adoption of a new educational methodology to make our children more active and more self-confident, which will teach them critical thinking and help them select and evaluate easily available information, the president said.

More education news can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Government Prepared for Further Talks with Teachers’ Unions

ZAGREB, October 2, 2019 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Wednesday that the government is always prepared for talks with teachers' unions, which have announced strike action in elementary and secondary schools for October 10.

The unions have said that the strike will last until their demand is met for a 6% increase of the job complexity index in the education sector. They called out the government because even two weeks after talks were held the government has still not presented its stance.

Speaking to reporters ahead of an inner cabinet meeting, Marić said that the government is always prepared for talks. "My message to the unions is: I will say what I have to say at a meeting," he said.

Marić said that the unions could count on a frank and transparent discussion with him, adding that he will first tell the unions what he has to say to them and then inform the public.

Marić announced that in the coming days a meeting would be held with government employees' unions as well as talks with public sector unions. "There will be meetings not just with teachers and health workers, but also with others who wish to hear what we have to say," Marić said.

Asked whether his job was being made difficult by ministers who defend unions in the media, he said that he doesn't meddle in the work of his colleagues. "Each one of them and each one of us are working the way we think we should be," he said.

He commented on an announcement by Health Minister Milan Kujundžić that funds to settle debts to drug wholesalers would be secured through a budget review, saying that the budget review is generally made at the end of the year.

"Until now most of the funds in budget reviews went to the health sector. There will be a review at some point but I would not connect it to liabilities and debts of the health sector," said Marić.

He said that budget funds were allocated to the health sector over the past few years, recalling a financial injection of 1.5 billion kuna in 2017 and an additional 500 million kuna last year and the 1 percentage point of health contributions this year. "We provided funds from the revenue side. I am not the one that needs to answer for what happened on the expenditure side," Marić concluded.

More public finance news can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

School Unions Announce Strike for October 10

ZAGREB, October 1, 2019 - School union leaders on Tuesday announced strike action in elementary and secondary schools on October 10, stating that the government, two weeks from their last meeting, still has not responded to union demands for their job complexity index to be increased by 6%.

Unionists Sanja Šprem and Branimir Mihalinec handed over a notice to the government informing of the strike action in schools. "The strike will be held on October 10 and will continue until our demands are met, and unions will advise of the format of the strike the day before," Mihalinec said.

He underscored that the unions met with the government on September 5 and discussed a 6% increase of the job complexity index and that since then the government has avoided meeting with the unions.

Asked who in the government was stalling or refusing to meet with the unions, Mihalinec said that Finance Minister Zdravko Marić had to make calculations regarding the 6% increase and that Labour Minister Josip Aladrović was just a mediator, adding that it was unbelievable that the government had not responded yet.

Šprem said that the unions had discussed in detail the justification of their demands with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and that they believe the government was bluffing to see if the unions would back down. She added that the unions made it clear that they will not give up.

A conciliation procedure between the government and unions which is compulsory before conducting a strike will be held in the next five days.

"If we do not get any result during the conciliation stage, it will certainly come after pressure and the strike which will really last," Šprem said.

Minister of Science and Education Blaženka Divjak earlier in the day expressed disgruntlement with the way the situation was developing in talks with school unions, adding that she would continue the fight for a better status for teachers, which includes higher wages.

More news about education in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Parents of Children with Special Needs Ask for More Classroom Assistants

ZAGREB, September 15, 2019 - The civil society initiative called "School for All" on Saturday held a protest rally in the centre of Zagreb, demanding the hiring of a higher number of school assistants who can help children with disabilities to be better included in education.

Participants in the protest warn about some of deficiencies in the school system, and said that hundreds of children were left without their classroom assistants at the beginning of this school year.

Some of school assistants who joined the protest rally complained about the disrespect of their labour rights. The hiring of a large number of school assistants is being funded by EU funds, however, they claimed that certain units of local authorities violated their rights and paid them less than agreed.

In attendance at the protest were three presidential hopefuls, Ante Simonic, Katarina Peović and Ivan Pernar.

Education Minister Blaženka Divjak said a few days ago that the number of licences issued for assistants for this school year was three times as high as five years ago.

Also, this year there are 1,000 more approvals for the hiring of school assistants than in the previous school year.

Therefore, she believes that it is necessary to make an expert analysis "of this explosion of the number of assistants".

The minister noted that a rule book was also prepared for the first time for regulation of the status of classroom assistants.

Applicants have to have at least secondary education and are supposed to pass the training that will enable them to help disabled children while they are at school.

More education news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 9 September 2019

New School Year Begins for 464,000 Students in Croatia

ZAGREB, September 9, 2019 - On the very first day of the new school year on Monday, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović visited a primary and secondary school in Zagreb's eastern suburb of Sesvete and on that occasion she wished students and teachers throughout Croatia all the best in the ongoing school year.

Asked by the press whether everybody was ready for the implementation of the curricula reform, the president said that it was up to teaching staff to assess their preparedness, and added that she would always support the reform of the schooling system in efforts to help Croatia to catch up with the most developed countries in the world.

In her address to the secondary school students in Sesvete, the president called on them to enhance their skills and knowledge and also to use the advantages offered to them abroad but to come back to Croatia and enrich their homeland with their knowledge.

"We need you, new generations, free of old ideologies and rich in knowledge," she underscored.

She also called for mutual respect among students and for development of team work competences as well as taking advantage of opportunities offered through Croatia's membership of the European Union and globalisation.

Education and Science Minister Blaženka Divjak on Monday morning visited a primary school in the suburb of Gračani and expressed satisfaction with the beginning of the implementation of the curricula reform.

New curricula are being implemented in first and fifth grade of primary schools and in Biology, Chemistry and Physics for 7th graders as well as in first grade in high schools and four-year vocational schools for general subjects. The new curricula are being applied to as many as 150,000 students.

Primary and secondary schools throughout Croatia opened their doors to slightly over 464,000 students on Monday, according to statistics provided by the Education Ministry.

Of those, 318,000 are elementary school students, including 38,000 first graders, and 146,000 are attending secondary school education.

More news about education in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

One in Three Schools Opt for Modified School Year Calendar

ZAGREB, September 8, 2019 - The new 2019-2020 school year starts in Croatia on 9 September and it includes 178 working days plus movable 16 holiday days in the four calendars offered to schools.

A majority of schools (67.04% of all primary and secondary schools) have opted for the school year calendar No.1 whereby the winter holidays start on 23 December 2019 and run through 10 January 2020. The spring holidays are from 10 to 17 April, the Education Ministry said recently.

Calendar No. 4 is the second most frequent choice selected by 33.38% of schools, and most of them are in north-western Croatia and in Zadar and Istria counties.

This calendar offers a two-day autumn holiday on 30 and 31 October, and the winter holidays are split in two parts: from 23 December to 3rd January and from 24 to 28 February 2020. The spring holidays include two days on 9 and 10 April with the resumption of school on 14 April.

The teaching activities in the new school year end on 17 June, while senior students in the final year of secondary school leave school on 22 May and sit for final exams in June.

More education news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Curricular Reform Ready for Implementation, 150,000 Pupils Covered

ZAGREB, September 7, 2019 - Education Minister Blaženka Divjak has said in an interview with Hina that the ongoing curricular reform has been the most comprehensive change in the schooling system so far.

The main goals of this curriculum reform are to keep students interested in learning and to convey to them more useful contents, the minister said in the interview published on Saturday.

It is important to teach students how to solve problems and to enable them to acquire purposeful knowledge, she says, noting that the new curricula, which will implemented as of the start of this new school year, are replacing 25-year-old curricula which had been the result of adjustment to the new system at the time.

New curricula are being implemented in first and fifth grade of primary schools, in seventh grade for subjects Biology, Chemistry and Physics and in first grade in upper secondary schools as well as in four-year vocational schools in general education subjects. Thus, as many as 150,000 pupils in are covered by the new curricula.

Primary and secondary schools throughout Croatia will open their doors for slightly over 464,000 students on Monday, the first day of the new school year, according to statistics provided by the education ministry.

Of them, 318,000 are elementary school students, including 38,000 first graders, and 146,000 are attending secondary education.

In this school year, the number of primary school first graders was lower by 500 compared to the previous school year.

The highest number of first graders, 8,000, is in the City of Zagreb, and in Split-Dalmatia County, 4,400. On the other hand, only 363 first graders enrol in primary schools in Lika-Senj County.

When it comes to secondary education, there are about 40,000 freshmen this year, and 11,000 of them are in general education schools called "gimnazije". As many as 26,500 enrol in vocational schools, 1,200 more students than last year's stats on freshmen in vocational programmes, whereas there are about 2,500 pupils in programmes at music or art schools.

Considering three-year vocational education, training programmes for cooks and hairdressing career are still most sought-after, according to data provided by the ministry.

More news about curricular reform can be found in the Politics section.

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