Monday, 28 October 2019

Unions of Education-Sector Employees Walk Out of Negotiations

ZAGREB, October 28, 2019 - The two striking unions of primary and secondary school teachers as well as the union of employees in the tertiary education and science sector on Monday walked out of negotiations with the government on higher wages after they did not get an answer about a timetable for talks on their demands.

The leader of the secondary school teachers' union, Branimir Mihalinec, said that "the government still does not know" when negotiations on their demand for a higher job complexity index would be arranged.

Mihalinec said that their departure from today's talks "is a symbolic, procedural gesture" since the sufficient number of union representatives of public-sector employees stayed to negotiate base pay.

"We have our representatives who will continue negotiations on base pay," Mihalinec told the press after leaving the talks. He called on Prime Minister Andrej Plenković "to start solving the problems."

The unionist also criticised a proposal by the Croatian People's Party (HNS) about "compensation measures " for education-sector employees, meaning the allocation of 160 million kuna annually for such measures until the elaboration of job complexity indices.

Last Friday, Education Minister Blaženka Divjak, who comes from the HNS ranks, called on all parties involved in the ongoing teachers' strike to abandon their entrenched positions, both political and interest-based, and understand that a compromise was necessary to secure a wage rise for teachers. "We haven't authorised the HNS to negotiate on our behalf," said Mihalinec.

The leader of the primary school teachers' union, Sanja Šprem, said that the government must think if ignoring the problem would be the right way to solve it.

The leader of the union of tertiary education workers, Igor Radeka, said that the union would stage a one-day strike on Wednesday.

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

Friday, 25 October 2019

Striking School Unions Will Not Meet with Presidential Candidates

ZAGREB, October 25, 2019 - School unions on Friday said that they would not meet with presidential candidates to discuss the situation in the education system and announced that schools in Primorje-Gorski Kotar, Međimurje and Sisak-Moslavina counties would be on strike on Monday.

Croatian Teachers' Union (SHU) Secretary-General Ana Tuškan told a press conference that they do not wish to be associated with any political party or presidential hopeful.

She made this statement after the leader of the Independent Union of Secondary School Teachers, Branimir Mihalinec, on Thursday called on presidential candidates Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and Miroslav Škoro to clearly state their opinion regarding the situation in education and the ongoing strike.

Škoro invited the unions to talks while incumbent President Grabar-Kitarović said on Twitter that she supports the union demands.

"Not one union in the education sector will attend any meeting with political parties. They should say what they think about education because it will probably be on each candidate's platform... but we will not go to any meeting, we do not wish to be associated with any candidate," Tuškan underscored.

Schools in Zadar and Šibenik-Knin were on strike last Friday with an 87% turnout in secondary schools and 92% in elementary schools.

The teachers' unions are demanding that the job complexity index be increased by 1.406 percentage points, which would put them on par with other state administration and civil servants.

Tuškan underlined that the 6.12% base pay increase announced by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković would mean that their salaries would still fall behind those of others in the system. "We will persist. Our demands are founded, legally supported and fair," she said.

She warned that wages in the education system are miserable. A beginner teacher's wage is 3,100 kuna (419 euro) a month while cleaners with 30 years of service earn 3,580 kuna (484 euro), she said.

"Those women are living on the verge of poverty. Cooks and accountants are in a similar position," Tuškan said, adding that 86% of women who are the least paid in the public sector work in schools.

More news about the strike can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Teachers' Strike Causing Bad Atmosphere among Parents, Says Plenković

ZAGREB, October 24, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that he did not think that the ongoing strike of primary and secondary school teachers was a good thing and added that it was creating a bad atmosphere among parents.

"Talks were conducted and we are open for further talks," said Plenković at the start of a cabinet meeting in Zagreb.

Considering the fact that the industrial action is in the form of a rotating strike taking place in different counties every working day, Plenković said that this also created "an unnecessary atmosphere of pressure on counties."

He called on leaders of the striking unions to sit at the negotiating table and to acknowledge what the authorities have done concerning primary and secondary school teachers whose work is respected and who are important stakeholders for the reform of the education system.

Plenković recalled that the overall increase in the base wage in the public sector's services would be 18% plus tax breaks, which leads to an increase of more than 20%.

"These are marked increases in the monthly income that cannot be compared to any earlier periods," the premier said.

Primary and secondary school teachers' unions launched a nationwide strike on 10 October. Since then they have been staging rotating strikes across counties.

Just before the start of today's government meeting, Education Minister Blaženka Divjak said that "the current situation is untenable", pointing out the importance of dialogue between the school unions and the government.

A meeting to this effect is expected in the coming days.

She reiterated that school unions were against a solution of raising the wage base for all as they insist that this move would not compensate the gap in their wages and are therefore demanding that the job complexity index be amended.

More news about the strike can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 21 October 2019

Circular Strike in Schools to Continue until November 1

ZAGREB, October 21, 2019 - School unions said on Monday that 93% of elementary and 89% of high school employees were on strike across the country and that schools in Vukovar-Srijem, Karlovac and Zagreb counties would strike on Tuesday.

The circular strike, in its 12th day, will last until November 1, unionist Branimir Mihalinec said, without revealing what the unions would do after that.

The unions are sticking to their demand of an increase of the job complexity index to 1.406, claiming that even with the 6.12% base pay rise for all public servants announced by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, education workers would continue to lag behind other public servants.

On Sunday, Labour Minister Josip Aladrović said that, in response to the union demands, he would commission an analysts of job complexity indices in public service so that all workers were equitably evaluated.

Unionist Sanja Šprem said today the strike turnout was excellent.

Earlier today a conciliation attempt between the government and the Science and Higher Education Union failed, as a result of which faculties will hold a one-day strike on Thursday. The Union announced that it would strike at least one day every week.

Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak said at a conference of the principals of secondary schools and dormitories in the southern coastal resort town of Tučepi on Monday that dialogue with teachers' unions should resume and that it was important to show respect to all teachers and school staff.

Asked to comment on the possibility that teachers would not be paid for the days spent on strike, Divjak said that such announcements should be avoided because teachers were exercising their constitutional right to fight for a better status, adding that it was better to make up for the classes lost during the strike than to resort to some drastic measures such as introducing compulsory work duties.

"It is imperative to show respect to those who are raising our children," the minister said.

More education news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Croatian Teachers to Go on Nationwide Strike on Monday

ZAGREB, October 17, 2019 - Primary and secondary school teachers and staff will be on strike across Croatia on Monday, union leaders announced at a press conference in Zagreb on Thursday.

The leader of the secondary school teachers' union, Branimir Mihalinec, and the leader of the primary school teachers' union, Sanja Šprem, said that the strike would continue until they were invited by the government to discuss their demand for higher job complexity indices.

The strike and protests are a message to the government that the statement by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković about the government's plan to increase base pay for state administration and public sector employees does not mean that teachers' demands have been met, Mihalinec said.

He added that higher job complexity indices was no longer just a union demand, but a demand by all employees in the primary and secondary education sector.

Šprem said she took the PM's statement in Parliament to mean that there was money for pay rises for everyone except for teachers.

Commenting on the government's announcement that base pay for all state administration and public sector workers would be increased by 6.12 percent, the union leaders said they were glad that everyone would get a pay rise, but that the move did not resolve their demands.

They said that they had concluded from their dialogue with Education Minister Blaženka Divjak that the job complexity indices were not fair, that this problem had to be dealt with immediately and that the unions' demands had not been met.

Primary and secondary schools in Primorje-Gorski Kotar, Slavonski Brod-Posavina, Požega-Slavonia and Lika-Senj counties will be on strike on Friday.

More news about the strike can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Plenković Hints at Solution for School Strike

ZAGREB, October 16, 2019 - Prime Minister and HDZ president Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday that there would be talks with school unions about their ongoing strike, that "there's no blackmail but there is a solution", and that the government had some ideas for school employees that it thought could be good.

Asked by reporters ahead of a meeting of the ruling HDZ party's parliamentary group if Croatia was facing a snap election, he said "we're still not at that stage."

Asked if the ruling coalition could break up because of school unions' demands and if the junior coalition partner, the Croatian People's Party (HNS), was blackmailing him, he said "nothing is that dramatic."

Asked if he was willing to offer school employees more, Plenković said they "have some ideas" they thought were good and that they would talk about them.

Reporters remarked that the school strike was under way, that negotiations were interrupted and that school unions announced a press conference outside the government for Wednesday morning, he reiterated that he saw no reason for the strike and that his government had raised salaries "between 15 and 17%."

Plenković said he did not wish to talk about previous governments which slashed salaries and abolished entitlements. "I think this government's good will towards all employees in Croatia, including those in the public sector, is more than clear. We respect them all equally."

He reiterated that the government was taking into account the entire economic policy, fiscal consolidation and everything that made it possible to have lower interest rates for citizens and businesses as well as to balance the budget.

We act as a government which has a clear and consistent course and policy, Plenković said, adding that the government would continue with this approach. "I'm inviting the unions to a dialogue and all political parties to take a realistic and good approach towards problem solving."

Asked if he would ask the courts about the legality of the school strike given that he said earlier there was no legal basis for it, Plenković said that would see.

He said that politically there was no justified reason for the strike, notably in a month when "teachers, whose job we appreciate and respect, received higher salaries than the month before."

That's a little unusual as there is no "burning" issue over which the strike should last. I understand it as a union initiative to create pressure but objectively, according to all possible criteria, it shouldn't have happened because a dialogue was under way, Plenković said.

"The offers on the table are serious. We'll find solutions that are good. The strike is under way based on decisions of those which organised it, not because of the government. I'm calling on teachers to dedicate themselves to what is important to them, the education of our children."

Asked if he expected 82 votes in parliament on Friday for a report on the government's performance and confidence in Health Minister Milan Kujundžić, and if the majority was steady, Plenković said that, as far as he could see, it was.

He said he did not talk with the HNS but that he would.

More news about the school strike can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Teachers' Strike Continues in 3 Counties, Universities Might Join

ZAGREB, October 15, 2019 - School unions on Monday reported a high response to the ongoing teachers' strike in five counties, adding that the strike in primary and secondary schools would continue in three counties on Tuesday while the leader of the Croatian Association of Trade Unions (MHS), Vilim Ribić, said that institutions of higher education might join the strike soon.

"The strike will continue on Tuesday in Osijek-Baranja, Istria and Šibenik-Knin counties. Those are three large counties and we expect just as high a response as today," the leader of the secondary school employees' union (NSZSSH), Branimir Mihalinec, told a press conference, noting that 86% of employees in primary schools and around 75% of secondary school employees were on strike on Monday.

Union leaders described at the press conference how workers' indices in the education sector had changed since the 2000 - 2004 government, underscoring and that they had held the same presentation at the Ministry of Science and Education in March, calling for the job complexity index to be increased by 6.11%.

"We have concluded that it is necessary to define a reference index in both systems for all those employed in the education process. It is necessary to equate the job complexity index for everyone because job complexity is the same for everyone and there shouldn't be any differences," Mihalinec said.

The unions underlined that Education Minister Blaženka Divjak had accepted their arguments back in March, however, after that the government proposed on several occasions that the index be increased only for administrative staff such as secretaries and for teachers in special rehabilitation institutions.

Mihalinec commented on Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić's message that "either teachers' wages will be increased or this government will no longer exist," saying that unions were pleased when their demands were supported and believed that that kind of political pressure could help resolve the dispute.

He also commented on remarks that the strike had no legal grounds. "The strike is allowed because the law clearly states that employees are allowed to strike for their economic and social interests. If increasing the job complexity index isn't part of wages, then I don't know what is," Mihalinec explained.

Vilim Ribić of the MHS union said on Monday that the union of employees in institutions of higher education could soon join the strike if an agreement was not reached with the government.

"We said that it would be fair to give the government a chance to accept our demands. I don't believe in the fairness of the conciliation process too much, 48 hours is sufficient time for them to say what they think. If there is no response, then we will announce a strike on Wednesday," Ribić said.

He added that the budget surplus was sufficient for a wage increase for the entire public sector.

More news about the strikes can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Bandić Threatens to Bring Government Down if Teachers' Pay Is Not Raised

ZAGREB, October 14, 2019 - The leader of the Labour and Solidarity Party, Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić, said on Monday that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, should raise wages for teachers by 6% or the current government would no longer exist.

During his visit to a primary school in Zagreb, Bandić said that lawmakers from his party would no longer vote for the government-sponsored proposals in the national parliament unless the monthly salaries for primary and secondary school teachers went up.

I call on the prime minister and on statesman (Andrej) Plenković to make Education Minister Blaženka Divjak see reason and redistribute 400 million kuna for higher salaries from an allocation of one billion kuna which she has already set aside for IT equipment, Bandić said.

He added that the redistribution of the funds for higher monthly salaries in the education system would "put an end to the current agony and travelling circus."

Bandić said he still trusted Plenković and was confident that he would make "a statesmanlike decision."

The leader of the Labour and Solidarity Party, a junior partner in the ruling coalition, has thus taken sides with the striking school unions.

The Croatian People's Party (HNS), also a junior partner in the coalition, has already supported the demands of the striking unions.

Minister Divjak entered the government from HNS ranks.

More education news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Unions Say More Than 85% of Teachers on Strike

ZAGREB, October 10, 2019 - Eighty-five percent of secondary school teachers and 89% of teachers in primary schools went on strike on Thursday, the two largest school unions have reported.

Secondary schools' union leader Branimir Mihalinec said that this was not the complete data as the Carnet internet service, which provides that information, had collapsed.

"Even people who are not union members have joined the strike. Today we have a frontal attack. More than a thousand institutions and virtually all those employed in the education system are on strike," Mihalinec told a press conference.

He sent a message to Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who on Wednesday said that "it was not clear to him why teachers were on strike," saying that numbers show that teachers clearly know why they are on strike.

Sanja Šprem of the SHU primary schools' union said that the government certainly needs to be concerned considering the initial number of teachers on strike.

"Their response is a clear indicator that all employees in the education system are united in their demands and (support) our initiative and wish to increase the job complexity index. Employees very well know what they are fighting for. This concerns their status in society and this is a fight for their personal dignity," said Šprem.

Considering that the teachers' union action is a rotating strike, which means that the strike is being held in the entire country on this first day, after which it will be held in different counties each day, the unions announced that the strike would continue tomorrow in Split-Dalmatia, Dubrovnik-Neretva, Međimurje and Varaždin counties.

Mihalinec explained that in the first stage of the strike, students would miss school two out of ten days.

Mihalinec underscored that the prime minister had been informed of their demand for the job complexity index to be increased by 6.11% for teachers with a university degree.

"The response to that was an agreement on bonuses. (The government) considers that that is the same thing and is now surprised," Mihalinec said and added that the government had not invested even one lipa in teaching staff during the educational reform process.

"Investments have been made in buildings, fences, smart boards but not in the people.  It's time now for the people. The people want their value to be confirmed," he said.

He said that the unions had not spoken with the prime minister since Wednesday but that they were open for talks and that if the PM wanted to meet with the unions, he could send them an amended job complexity index regulation and the unions would call off their strike.

"No matter how hard we try, we cannot find one reason why we should concede to a lower index, because (our demand for a higher index) is just. Our activities will continue until we achieve that index," Mihalinec concluded.

More strike news can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

As Teachers Strike, Plenković Appeals to Unions to Negotiate

ZAGREB, October 10, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday the strike which began in elementary and high schools today was "absurd and unnecessary" and appealed to unions to be reasonable and return to dialogue.

"We talked with the unions, there was conciliation. We offered them a 2% pay rise this year and as much next year. For some unfathomable reason, the unions didn't accept that," he said at the start of a cabinet meeting.

Instead of accepting the government's offer, they insisted on changing the job complexity index for teachers, which is regulated by the government, Plenković said.

There was no justified reason for this strike, he said, adding that his government had carried out an education reform and introduced a new methodology which should better prepare students for the labour market.

He called the union demands "fabricated, absurd and unnecessary," saying that neither the basic nor the branch collective agreement had expired.

"This demand is about changing the (job complexity) index, which is regulated by government decree. Going on strike when you are offered 4% instead of the 6% you are asking for seems a little exaggerated. This is no will for a compromise but for some sort of obstruction. We distinguish between what is logical and normal and what seems exaggerated," Plenković said.

We are open for talks and I hope reason will prevail, he added.

Work and Solidarity Party president Milan Bandić called on Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday to raise teachers' salaries by 6% as of September 1, by 4% as of 1 January 2020 and by 7% as of 1 January 2021, saying this was not his condition to the prime minister but the condition of all conditions.

Speaking at a press conference, Bandić said his party would not leave the ruling coalition because it cooperated with the government on projects, adding that this pay rise was the project of all projects.

He said Education Minister Blaženka Divjak should have resolved the pay rise issue earlier and that his party had asked her to do so in August already.

Bandić extended full support for teachers, who are on strike as of today, saying he expected the prime minister to resolve the situation today so that children could go to school.

He added that he trusted in Plenković's prudence and wisdom because both knew that there cannot be a Croatia without "living people, educated and employed people, and teachers are the foundation of Croatian education."

"There is money for computer studies yet there isn't the 1.2 billion kuna for the 17% pay rise," Bandić said, adding that "we support the teachers' justified strike."

He said there must be money for the country's priorities and that they are demographic revival, education, work and employment.

Bandić, who is also the mayor of Zagreb, said the capital had raised salaries for 700 teachers for the 2019-2020 school year by 17% as of September and that this would cost HRK 8 million for the year 2020.

A strike began in over 1,000 elementary and high schools today because the government turned down a demand by two unions for a 6% pay rise.

More education news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Page 5 of 18