Monday, 27 April 2020

Unions Against Employers' Demand for Amending of Labour Act

ZAGREB, April 27, 2020 - Unionists on Monday sharply objected to employers' demands for fast-track change of the Labour Act and appealed for support from the government while employers responded saying the amendments are necessary to regulate the "grey zone" in the economy during the coronavirus epidemic.

Speaking ahead of a meeting of the Economic and Social Council (GSV), which was convened at the request of the unions, union leader, Krešimir Sever told reporters that the meeting was convened to discuss the easing of the lockdown introduced during the coronavirus epidemic.

Sever added that it was more than certain that due to the vociferous demands by employers the Labour Act would also be on the agenda. However, he announced, the unions will "instantaneously close that topic."

"There is no way what they are calling for to pass because they have called for this previously and negotiated with the government when they proposed that the Labour Act be put out of force, as well as collective agreements, labour regulations...," he said.

"Now they are trying again," he claimed and said that employers are trying to disguise their attempts with the story of working from home even though small, and micro employers are already having problems and laying off workers and that they should be allowed to do so without any explanation.

He recalled that this had been in fact one of the proposals put forward by the SDP-led government of Prime Minister Zoran Milanović and that the unions had rejected that idea and would do so again this time.

"Their goal with which they are going against workers needs to be cut in the bud because many of them have used various opportunities to pressure the government. They are getting whatever they have asked and even more. It's time for the government to stand on side with unions, if not - the election will," Sever said.

President of the Union of Autonomous Trade Unions of Croatia Mladen Novosel said that they had called for today's meeting of the GSV in order to be informed of the implementation of the government measures.

It is important for the government to include social partners, particularly the unions, when discussing its measures.

The head of the Croatian Employers' Association (HUP) Davor Majetić said that he would present the issue of the Labour Act and see what the response will be.

Addressing reporters, he said that two issues need to be resolved urgently.

"We know that during the crisis employers have less possibility to pay wages based on working contracts in many fields," he said and advocated a legislative framework so employers can alter wages without having to negotiate each individual working contract.

"Where unions exist that is easier but where there isn't a union, you have no one to negotiate with and that needs to be simplified," Majetić explained.

The other issue related to the Labour Act is the need to resolve the issue of working from home, "because when the corona crisis ends, I believe that a great number of people will choose the option of at least temporarily working from home. Clear conditions, working hours, breaks need to be defined and currently that is not the case and we are in some sort of 'grey zone,'" said Majetić.

More economy news can be found in the Business section.

Monday, 27 April 2020

Provision on State of Emergency Should Be Urgently Added to Labour Act

ZAGREB, April 27, 2020 - A provision on a state of emergency should be urgently added to the Labour Act because of the payment of wages during the coronavirus pandemic, and the regulation of workers' entitlements should be simplified in the conditions of reduced business activity, the Croatian Employers' Association (HUP) said in a statement on Monday.

On the first day of relaxed restrictions and ahead of a meeting of the Economic and Social Council, the HUP called on the social partners to discuss urgent amendments to the Labour Act.

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted business activities through no fault of employers or workers, as a result of which businesses were forced to cease their operations and were left with reduced or no income, the HUP said, adding that employers cannot meet all the obligations under employment contracts and that it is no time for a dramatic increase in unemployment.

HUP director-general Davor Majetić said that the relief measures undertaken by the government had helped overcome the initial shock to the economy caused by the pandemic.

"Now is the time for businesses to overcome the negative consequences. The Labour Act does not provide for a state of emergency and we need to change that. The sets of government measures will become effective in May, but that does not mean that the circumstances will change for the enterprise sector for at least another three months. Employers cannot be expected to maintain the pre-crisis level of wages in all sectors. We have to get the wheel of the economy going by the autumn and no one can guarantee what the epidemiological situation will be like at that time of year. A state of emergency must be defined by the law," Majetić said in the statement.

The HUP said that in the circumstances of reduced income and increased costs many companies would be facing the challenges of how to keep jobs and ensure the necessary conditions to continue their business.

It said that labour legislation should simplify administrative arrangements for employment contracts, registration of workers, records of hours of work, job changes, recording of work performance, and work from home.

More economy news can be found in the Business section.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Over 13,000 New Jobless in Second Half of March

ZAGREB, April 2, 2020 - At the end of March 2020, over 143,000 persons were registered with the Croatian Employment Service (HZZ), with 13,264 registering in the last 15 days of March alone.

On 16 March there were 134,717 persons registered with the HZZ, and at the end of March that number was 143,454, which is an increase of 8,737 persons, shows data given to Hina by the HZZ.

However, in that period 13,262 new persons were registered with the HZZ, of which 12,260 persons registered immediately after their employment contract had been terminated.

At the same time 4,546 persons left the register, of which 3,417 are now employed.

Broken down by sectors, from March 16 to March 31 the largest number of jobless were registered in the accommodation and food services sector (4,376), followed by the trade sector (1,672), the manufacturing sector (1,462) and the other services sector (891).

HZZ data for April 1 show that the number of jobless increased by over a thousand - a total of 1,473 persons registered with the HZZ on April 1 alone.

As of today, 144,819 persons are registered with the HZZ and there are 9,260 job vacancies.

More economic news can be found in the Business section.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Government Abruptly Withdraws Labour Act from Procedure

ZAGREB, October 16, 2019 - Labour Ministry state secretary Majda Burić informed the parliamentary Labour, Pension System and Social Partnership Committee on Wednesday that the government was withdrawing from procedure amendments to the Labour Act the committee was to have discussed today.

She did not say why the government was doing so.

Committee chair Gordan Maras of the opposition Social Democratic Party said "it's unusual" to do so just before the start of the committee meeting, while Ante Babić of the ruling HDZ said "the circumstances are such, the government is talking with the social partners."

An external committee member noted that this was done without the social partners' knowledge, to which Burić replied that the government acknowledged the social partners, cooperating both with the unions and the Croatian Employers Association (HUP).

Earlier this morning HUP cancelled a scheduled press conference with the explanation that it had been notified by the government that it would withdraw from further procedure a bill of amendments to the Labour Act which regulated the possibility of working for another three years after qualifying for age pension eligibility at 65.

Said bill was part of a pension reform package and we have also been notified that the necessary labour legislation improvements will be discussed through the social dialogue, HUP said.

The government says on its website that it held a conference call on Tuesday at which it decided to withdraw six bills from parliamentary procedure, and that it will discuss the bills with the social partners and then send them into regular procedure.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday the government had not capitulated before employers but only wanted additional consultations, adding that it was drawing up laws in citizens' interest.

He was asked by the press why the government had withdrawn six bills from procedure. "We believe we still have time to adopt them in regular procedure."

The government says on its website that it held a conference call on Tuesday at which it decided to withdraw six bills from parliamentary procedure, and that it will discuss them with the social partners and then send them into regular procedure.

The bills envisage amendments to the Labour Act, two laws on civil servants, the Healthcare Act, the law on elementary and high school education, and the law on science and higher education.

Asked if that was done in the interest of unions, employers or someone else, Plenković said it was "in the interest of Croatian citizens."

A member of the press remarked that if he was yielding to employers, he could also raise teachers' salaries, to which he said: "You'll hear everything today and everything will be clear."

Asked if he would receive the striking teachers or if the government's offer of a pay rise which they turned down was still on the table, Plenković said he was always for dialogue.

The Alliance of Autonomous Trade Unions of Croatia (SSSH) on Wednesday welcomed the government decision to withdraw six pension and labour bills from the fast-track procedure and the announcement by the government that it would further consider the bills with social partners and then send them to Parliament for adoption under regular procedure.

SSSH recalled in a statement its open letter to Prime Minister Andrej Plenković in which it said that it would be reasonable and responsible not to pass these bills under fast-track procedure but first to evaluate their effects and envisage a transition period for all or individual activities.

More pension news can be found in the Business section.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Unions Will Not Meet with Labour Minister until Parliament Calls Referendum

ZAGREB, August 14, 2019 - Three trade union federations which go by the acronyms the SSSH, the NHS and the MHS, said on Wednesday that they would not respond to Labour Minister Josip Aladrović's invitation to talks until the parliament decided to call a referendum against the statutory retirement age of 67.

The newly-appointed labour and pension system minister previously invited trade unions to a meeting set for August 22, "for the sake of further development of social dialogue, cooperation and partnership."

"For the meeting to be held, the key dispute that has lasted for months needs to be resolved. Until the parliament adopts a decision to call a referendum based on the '67 is too much' initiative, the government's commitment to defining and implementing policies and measures for sustainable development through a true social dialogue will remain questionable," the three trade union federations said in a joint statement.

The unions believe that the relationship between them and the government deteriorated additionally in 2018, when the government defined a new pension reform without consultation with trade unions.

That was the reason why unions launched a signature-collection campaign to ask for a referendum on changes to retirement terms.

"That was the reason why the agreement on the establishment of the new Economic and Social Council was not signed, and the government's anti-reform campaign resulted in our demand for the replacement and later resignation of the former minister and for the termination of the old agreement," the three trade union federations said, noting that their decision to walk out of social dialogue did not happen overnight and that social dialogue could not be restored overnight either.

More news about trade unions can be found in the Business section.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Government Will Officially Invite Unions to Continue Dialogue

ZAGREB, July 24, 2019 - The newly appointed Minister of Labour and Pension System, Josip Aladrović, on Wednesday announced that he would officially invite unions to sit down together and continue social dialogue regarding common topics, including the "67 is too much" referendum related to the pension reform.

At the moment that invitation is very inclusive and refers to everyone, and it will be officially made very soon, once we determine what topics we wish to discuss with them, Aladrović told reporters ahead of an inner cabinet meeting.

I am certain that unions and employers will respond and we certainly have something to talk about, he said.

In reference to reporters' comments that the unions are not that eager regarding negotiations and whether he had anything to offer that would appease them, Aladrović said that that was a matter of social dialogue.

"I believe that that is all a matter of dialogue and that when we sit down at the table, we will see what we can talk about, what needs to be agreed, what the common topics are and what social partners want to discuss," he underscored.

Asked whether he would appeal to unions to give up the referendum, Aladrović said that all topics related to social dialogue referring to labour and the pension system "are desirable topics to be put on the table with social partners."

He did not agree with reporters that his hands were tied thanks to what his predecessor Marko Pavić had done.

"Signatures were collected and they are going to the Public Administration Ministry and those who will decide whether the referendum will be held, how many signatures are required and how many were collected. I think that our hands are not tied and that we are open to social dialogue. The unions are rejecting dialogue but I will use one more opportunity to invite them and I think that with communication and dialogue we can resolve problems," Aladrović said.

He did not wish to prejudge what would happen if the unions do not agree to a dialogue.

He did not agree with the president of the Independent Croatian Trade Unions, Krešimir Sever, that he will not have the political weight to oblige other ministers to participate in the work of the Economic-Social Council (GSV).

"I have already talked with the ministers. We are very inclined toward the GSV and I am certain that I will have the weight to invite other ministers and that they will respond," he said.

He assessed that the measure to employ pensioners has shown exceptionally good results and added that since 1 January more than 13,000 pensioners have been employed, mostly in retail, manufacturing as well as in some professional, scientific and education categories.

More news about labour issues can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Labour Costs to Be Lowered by July's End

ZAGREB, July 15, 2019 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Monday that a new set of measures that will reduce the labour costs would be presented by the end of the month, but stopped short of specifying them.

On the margins of the international conference "Demographics, Jobs and Growth: Navigating the Future in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe", co-organised by the Croatian National Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Dubrovnik, the finance minister only said that when it came to income and net profit taxation, the tax reform had yielded the best results in those segments so far.

He also recalled that last year, the government raised the non-taxable amount of benefits, and as a result, 1.25 billion kuna was paid to 471,000 workers in 2018 under that scheme.

As for the topic of the international conference in Dubrovnik, Marić said that there was no uniform solution to demographic problems, the lack of the labour force and their roles in economic growth.

Marić said that only sound and robust economic growth, job creation and education preparing people for the labour market could facilitate efforts to retain Croats in their homeland, attract other citizens to move to Croatia and persuade expats to come back to Croatia.

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

Monday, 15 July 2019

Lack of Qualified Labour Is Main Obstacle to Growth

ZAGREB, July 15, 2019 - The lack of qualified labour has become the main obstacle to growth in many countries, so it is necessary to create an environment which will motivate talented individuals to stay, and this includes raising salaries, Croatian National Bank (HNB) governor Boris Vujčić said in Dubrovnik on Monday.

He was speaking at the opening of the international conference "Demographics, Jobs and Growth: Navigating the Future in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe", co-organised by the HNB and the International Monetary Fund.

The conference focuses on labour market and demographic challenges, the future of labour, and policies needed to sustain growth and reach Western European levels of income. Present are, alongside HNB and IMF representatives, Croatia's Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Finance Minister Zdravko Marić, 15 central bank governors and finance ministers from Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe (CESEE), representatives of the World Bank, the European Commission, the Bank for International Settlements and other institutions, as well as experts from the universities of Oxford, London and Tartu.

Vujčić said understanding the ties between demography, jobs and growth was an increasingly important topic for CESEE countries as a rapidly decreasing labour reduced the potential of catching up with the rest of Europe.

The topic is also relevant for many other countries hit by ageing populations and economic migration, Vujčić added.

Owing to more efficient public health systems and lower fertility rates, the average European citizen is older than in the not so distant past, and the median age in the EU has risen by 4.5 years since 2000, he noted.

For less developed European countries, the challenge of ageing populations is tied to the challenge of emigration, which is the cause of big structural problems, jeopardising not only the viability of pension and health systems, but also affecting their growth potential, Vujčić said.

Major migrations occurred in Europe during the last recession, with workers moving from the hardest-hit countries to more developed ones. Today, with economic recovery across the continent, the lack of qualified labour has become the main obstacle to growth in many countries, Vujčić said.

According to a 2018 survey by the European Investment Bank, companies in the CESEE believe the limited availability of qualified labour is one of the biggest obstacles to investment, he added.

In that context, creating and keeping qualified labour has become a key goal for policy makers in those countries, Vujčić said. Achieving that goal calls for creating an environment in which talented individuals will be motivated to stay and work in their homeland, he added.

Raising salaries to a sufficiently high level in those countries is just part of the solution, given that job security is another important factor without which, despite a high pay, many emigrate, Vujčić said.

There are also many measures which go beyond labour market policies and can offer the right incentives to the workforce to stay, such as affordable housing, notably for younger families, and education, he added.

Reforms aimed at aligning education and corporate sector needs will contribute not only to the creation of skilled and motivated employees, but also reduce the likelihood of such labour staying unemployed, and consequently desperate and discouraged, for long, said Vujčić.

More news about economic growth can be found in the Business section.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Petrokemija to Lay Off 350 Employees This Year

ZAGREB, May 2, 2019 - The Kutina-based artificial fertiliser producer Petrokemija said on Thursday that at the meeting held on 30 April 2019, its Supervisory Board gave its approval on the implementation of the Severance Plan for 2019.

According to the Plan, and communication with social partners, about 350 employees will leave the company by the end of this year.

The optimisation of business processes in the Company and Petrokemija Group, which includes optimization and management of human resources, is one of the prerequisites for ensuring a sustainable business model of the Company. Petrokemija did not specify the amount of severance pays.

The company has successfully completed the recapitalisation process – investors have paid for 45 million of new stocks which helped the company collect 450 million kuna. The stock capital was raised to 550.287 million kuna.

According to recently published figures, in the first three months of 2019, Petrokemija made net income of 22 million kuna, compared to 79 million kuna net loss in the same period last year.

The sales volume and sales structure are the main promotors of better results compared to the same period of 2018. Total sales volume rose by 31 percent and revenue grew by 44 percent, thanks to good results in Croatia and in regional markets, the company said on its website.

More Petrokemija news can be found in the Business section.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Officials Issue Messages for International Workers' Day

ZAGREB, May 1, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Tuesday extended his best wishes to all citizens for International Workers' Day, observed on May 1, saying that his government was trying to improve living standards by implementing its programme based on economic growth, job creation, demographic revival and social solidarity.

He said that International Workers' Day was an occasion to raise awareness of the importance of improving workers' status and working conditions, as well as the value of work and jobs in evolving global and market circumstances brought about by the 4th industrial revolution.

The prime minister noted that his government was making sure that low-income and vulnerable citizens had a decent life. "We have decided to increase the minimum wage to 3,000 kuna (400 euro) net and to increase pensions by 7.54 percent, while the lowest pension will go up by an additional 3.13 percent as of July 1," he said, recalling government investment in employment, in particular in the employment of young people, middle-aged women, long-term unemployed and persons with disabilities.

"For that purpose, we have invested 4.5 billion kuna (608 million euro) in the last two and a half years while in office, which has led to an increase in employment and a decrease in unemployment," Plenković said.

"Remaining open to dialogue with the trade unions, employers and workers, the government continues to build a modern society and an economy resistant to financial challenges and ready for reform to improve the standard of living for all people in Croatia," the PM concluded in his message.

Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković on Tuesday issued his message, underscoring the need for Croatian society to persevere in empowering workers' rights and improving living and working conditions.

Jandroković noted that on International Workers' Day we recall the events of 1886 when workers in Chicago staged protests calling for the recognition of their fundamental rights and dignity and paved the way for more just and humane working conditions.

"Recalling the many years of workers' struggle, today, in an age of new challenges, global market and technological progress, in Croatian society we have to persevere in further empowering workers' rights and ensuring good working and living conditions for all employees," Jandroković said in his message.

In addition to fighting for competitiveness, we also need to continue building a society based on fair and socially-sensitive labour relations in which each individual will have an equal opportunity for a dignified life from their decent and dedicated work or from their pensions, Jandroković said.

More labour news can be found in the Business section.

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