Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Unions Refuse Reduction of Public Servants' Rights

ZAGREB, May 6, 2020 - Union representatives on Wednesday said, after the start of negotiations with the relevant ministry regarding new collective agreements, that they would not accept a reduction of rights in the public sector, warning of the damaging consequences should the government persist with that intention.

The government has put forward a proposal that due to the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus, salaries should not be increased in June and October for employees in public and state services and that employees not be paid Christmas and holiday bonuses this year.

Secretary-General of the Grand Council of the Independent Union in Science and Higher Education Vilim Ribić said the government's representatives were "destroying well-argued dialogue."

He claimed that not one serious economist in the country supports the idea of reducing demand or incomes in the public sector and that not one country in the EU has reduced salaries, and that some have even raised salaries in the public sector.

However, the Croatian government, Ribić said, is going in the opposite direction because an election is coming and it wants to satisfy the influential pressure by employers and part of the media.

Leader of the Independent Union of Secondary School Employees Branimir Mihalinec said that the government has no moral right to ask for a reduction in salaries and material rights in the public sector, much less to ask that salaries are not increased in the education sector which still need to reach the level of others in other public services.

He added that the unions had warned of the extent of the damage should the government persist with its demands to withdraw from the agreed increase of the base wage and Christmas and holiday bonuses.

"We asked that they withdraw that proposal, to once again think twice about where that would lead," unionist Igor Radeka said, adding that the unions would make their position clear once they receive the government's proposal in writing.

More economic news can be found in the Business section.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Government Launches Talks with Public Sector Employees

ZAGREB, May 5, 2020 - The Croatian government on Monday held a conference call at which it adopted a decision to launch negotiations on the signing of an annex to the collective agreement for government employees and appoint the government's negotiating team.

Also adopted was a decision on the launching of talks on an annex to the basic collective agreement for public sector employees.

Decisions were adopted on the launching of talks on the signing of an annex to the agreement on an additional payment for employees in primary and secondary schools and science institutions and institutions of higher education and the appointment of the government's negotiating team, as well as on the launching of talks on an annex to the agreement on the amount of the additional payment for police officers and the dynamic of its disbursement as part of the base pay.

Some ten days ago, unions of public sector and government employees held a consultative meeting with government officials.

It was decided that official talks would be launched on wages and basic collective agreements due to the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

More economy news can be found in the Business section.

Friday, 24 April 2020

Meeting Between Unions, Government Ends, Negotiations to Follow

ZAGREB, April 24, 2020 - Trade unions representing public and civil servants on Thursday wrapped up consultations with government representatives with the conclusion that official negotiations on salaries and basic collective agreements would follow, due to the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

"We talked about the economic and health safety situation in light of the coronavirus pandemic. We exchanged opinions on how we see certain government measures and their effects. Official negotiations will follow. We expect to.... agree on solutions to all financial challenges the government is facing, which will be to the satisfaction of employees," Labour and Pension System Minister Josip Aladrović said after a three-hour meeting.

Aladrović said that for the time being he "would not dare say" that pay cuts were necessary.

"During the entire meeting the word 'cuts' was never mentioned. We have to put the benefits of state and public servants on the table and talk about them. I am hoping for a certain consensus," Aladrović said.

The minister also said what would happen with a recently agreed increase in the wage index for education employees.

"That was not on the table today. However, I am confident that during the negotiations we will open that issue," Aladrović said.

Union representative Vilim Ribić underscored that if something was necessary, it should not be called solidarity but necessity.

"I would not say that there was understanding at the meeting, rather polemics and opposite opinions. There was a lot of discussion about the economic purpose of salaries in the state and public sector. Our opinions on the issue were opposite. We also discussed when these interventions will take place and who will be affected by them," Ribić said.

He warned that none of the EU countries was cutting salaries at the moment and that all economic experts said pay cuts would be counterproductive. "Even the Croatian National Bank governor has said that now is not the right time," Ribić said.

More economy news can be found in the Business section.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Reiner: Ruling Coalition Didn't Discuss Pay Cuts

ZAGREB, April 15, 2020 - Deputy Parliament Speaker Željko Reiner said on Wednesday the ruling coalition meeting today focused on amending the law on the protection of the population from contagious diseases and that it did not discuss pay cuts in the public sector.

"We all agreed that in this special situation Croatia, and the whole world, is exposed to a new virus that didn't exist the last time that law was passed. We must adapt it just as some ten days ago we adapted the law on civil protection," Reiner (HDZ) told reporters after the meeting.

Asked if the adjustments requested by the opposition would be introduced, he said he did not know but that amendments would be discussed if there were any.

Reiner said the coalition did not discuss pay cuts in the public sector and that, as far as he knew, there was no proposal to cut them by 20%.

He said all decisions about that should be made in agreement with trade unions and in line with financial developments.

As for the steps necessary to come out of this crisis, Reiner said Croatian People's Party president Ivan Vrdoljak mentioned that they must start talking about them and that all were for it.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Croatian Police to Have Higher Wages in 2020

ZAGREB, December 18, 2019 - The government on Wednesday decided to greenlight a rise in monthly pay of Croatian police officers according to the model of 3% rise plus 1% and an additional 2% throughout 2020.

Thus, the wage earned this December and paid in January to police officers with secondary school education will increase by 3%, plus 1% for the wage earned in June 2020 and paid a month later, and in January 2021 they could except the monthly wage increased by 2%.

Thus, the monthly wage of police staff who are employed in the positions for which completion of secondary school education is required will rise by 6.11% in aggregate in January 2021.

Other police officers can count on a 3-percent rise their monthly wage as of September 2020.

Interior Minister Davor Božinović said that this agreement "is the continuity of the performance of this government" and its wish to ensure higher wages to police officers in accordance with the financial possibilities. alongside the provision of better work conditions and equipment.

The agreement on the new model for rising police officers' pay will be signed later on Wednesday by the government and representatives of trade unions of police staff.

More police news can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 6 December 2019

Government and Public Servants Unions Sign Agreements on Pay Rise

ZAGREB, December 6, 2019 - An annex to the Basic Collective Agreement for public servants and a wage supplement agreement for education sector employees was signed in Government House on Thursday.

The annex to the Basic Collective Agreement for public servants was signed by Labour and Pension System Minister Josip Aladrović and representatives of nine trade unions.

"After a longer period of time we have decided to sign the annex to the Basic Collective Agreement and we must express our satisfaction. The negotiations were not simple, they were demanding, however we did find a compromise solution. We have accepted it so that our people, after a certain number of years, could have higher base pay next year," said Anica Prašnjak, president of the nurses' union.

The wage supplement agreement for education sector employees was signed by Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak and education union representatives.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said his government has shown that it has continued to implement its consistent policy of increasing salaries through the base pay and annexes to the Basic Collective Agreement.

"During this government's term, salaries in state administration and public services will have gone up 18.3 percent by October 2020," Plenković said.

More news about the public sector can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 2 December 2019

Customs Officers' Union Also Demands Higher Wages

ZAGREB, December 2, 2019 - The customs officers' union on Monday held a meeting in the Ministry of Labour regarding working conditions and adjusting the wage indices in customs services, with customs officers claiming that their wage indices are 20% lower compared to other employees in the Ministry of Finance.

"Customs officers are working in poor conditions. Legal provisions and the collective agreement are not adhered to. We are rarely given new uniforms and we have to buy our own toilet paper and soap. Overtime work is not paid and regular health check-ups are not conducted," union leader Rino Štorić said after the meeting with the ministry's representatives and in the absence of Labour Minister Josip Aladrović.

Štorić said that legal provisions and the collective agreement for about 2,800 employees are not adhered to.

He claimed that there is a lot of differences in the wage indices within the customs service and that they have warned the Ministry of Finance of this discrepancy for years, but without any response.

"Our last demand was sent to the prime minister personally, yet we did not receive any response. I hope that the government has realised that for years it is has been causing confusion in public services. They are the ones who adopt regulations on indices and define the rules of the game," said Štorić.

The customs officers' union expects a concrete response to its demands within seven days at the most. If the government does not respond in that time, the union will submit a complaint to the International Labour Organisation that workers' rights are not be respected.

Štorić added that customs officers are prepared to wait for the foreign consultants the government has announced will amend the regulation on wage indices.

He added that the union wants its status to be resolved as it is currently exposed to unprecedented pressure which threatens to shut down the union.

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

Monday, 11 November 2019

Public Sector Unions Seek 3+3+3 Percent Wage Increase

ZAGREB, November 11, 2019 - After meeting with the government's negotiation team on Monday, president of the MHS association of trade unions Vilim Ribić stated that public sector unions are seeking a 3+3+3 percent increase of the base wage and a higher Christmas bonus during the negotiations on a supplement to the basic collective agreement.

Negotiations resumed on Monday in the Ministry of Labour and Pension System between government and union representatives over the basic collective agreement for public sector workers.

Ribić said that the unions are seeking an increase of the base wage next year on the principle of 3+3+3 percent.

"We asked for increasing the Christmas bonus to 2,500 kuna, increasing the budget base to 5,000 kuna and that Christmas allowances for children be increased from 500 to 600 kuna. We agreed to detect together how much salaries in the public sector are lagging behind other sections of society," Ribić said.

An analysis of that should be completed by the next meeting between the unions and the government. If it is proved that salaries in the public sector are 18.3% lower than in the real sector, as the unions are claiming, that analysis will serve as common stance by the government and unions that it is necessary to remove the wage gap between the public sector in relation to other segments in society.

Ribić confirmed to reporters that the meeting did not discuss an increase of the job complexity index. He does not believe that the government will ban the ongoing strike in schools and hopes that it will offer a coherent solution.

"It is necessary to find a solution so that people who are on strike are not offended and humiliated. They have to be given some sort of satisfaction while, on the other hand, the government need not be a loser," Ribić said.

The president of the Grand Council of the Independent Union in Science and Higher Education, Igor Radeka, said that education unions were still waiting for the government's invitation to negotiations.

After a meeting last Tuesday, union representatives said that they expected the government to make on offer regarding union demands this Monday. Radeka recalled that the government had asked for a time-out, but the unions have still not received any invitation to a new meeting.

Branimir Mihalinec of the Independent Union of Secondary School Employees said earlier that the strike in primary and secondary schools was continuing. The rotating strike continued today in schools in Split-Dalmatia and Požega-Slavonia counties.

Minister of Labour and Pension System Josip Aladrović on Monday said that the government is close to an agreement with state administration unions regarding supplements to the basic collective agreement, but at the moment it cannot accept the public sector unions' demand for a 3+3+3 percent base wage increase.

State administration unions are satisfied with a wage base increase of 6.12% (2+2+2), but they still want to discuss the pace of that increase.

"We are at an advanced stage of finalising an agreement with state administration unions and I expect that at the next meeting we will define the entire agreement on the base wage and material rights for next year. We have found a certain compromise and I think that both sides should be satisfied," Aladrović told reporters.

At the moment we cannot accept the public sector unions' demand for a 3+3+3 percent increase of the base wage, Aladrović said. We are offering what we offered at the start, with some possible concessions regarding material rights, he added.

As far as an agreement with unions over a mini analysis of salaries in the public sector and other segments of society are concerned, a meeting has been scheduled for November 21.

The unions claim that salaries in the public sector are falling 18.3% behind the real sector. Aladrović does not believe this to be so. "The gap certainly cannot be 18%, those are unrealistic demands. I think that by refraining from that at today's meeting, the public sector unions realised that those demands were unrealistic," he said.

For now, the negotiation positions held by public sector unions and the government are quite apart, but negotiations will continue until an agreement is reached.

"We will meet as much as it takes until we come to a compromise solution," Aladrović said.

There won't be any meeting today with striking school unions due to the minister's other commitments, but a meeting will be held on Tuesday.

"We will talk tomorrow. Our stances continue to be the same. We expect that we will resolve the issue of wages in the education sector too with the basic collective agreement," Aladrović said.

As far as possibly banning the strike is concerned, he said that it is necessary to see how tomorrow's meeting will end but for now he denied speculation that repressive action will be taken against the unions.

"We still appeal for the strike to end. We consider that a 6.12% increase of the base wage with the possibility of increasing the job complexity by 2% after 30 June is a reasonable offer," he said.

He confirmed that striking teachers would be paid their October wage but in future that will depend on the continuation of negotiations.

Asked whether that meant that striking teachers would not be paid their November wage, Aladrović said, "We can look at it that way but we will see after the negotiations."

More news about public sector in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Planned Public Sector Pay Rise to Cost 1.2 Billion Kuna Annually

ZAGREB, October 17, 2019 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Wednesday that the planned pay rise for state administration and public sector employees would cost between 1.1 billion and 1.2 billion kuna annually.

Marić said that the planned increases were expected to take effect at the beginning, in the middle and in the second half of next year, adding that during the term of this government the base pay increase for state administration and public sector employees would be around 18.3 percent.

In an annual report on his government's work submitted to Parliament on Wednesday, Plenković said that the government would offer a 6.12% wage increase to all state administration and public sector employees in three 2% rounds, which was why the planned reduction of the standard 25% VAT rate by one percentage point, set for January 1, would be postponed.

Marić said that the government would also tackle the issue of the job complexity index and bonuses defined by different contracts, adding that a detailed analysis of civil service jobs would be carried out.

Speaking of the plan to increase non-taxable income from 3,800 to 4,000 kuna, the minister said this would increase the number of taxpayers not subject to income tax by 75-80,000. He noted that 1.7 million citizens were currently not subject to income tax.

Marić said that about one million other employees would also be subject to higher non-taxable income and that the financial effect would depend on their wages.

The total effect of this measure is 500 million kuna, which should end up in citizens' pockets, while local government will be left without this money. Marić announced compensation measures for local government units. The delay in reducing the VAT rate by one percentage point will leave between 1.7 billion and 1.8 billion kuna in government coffers, the minister said.

Marić said that despite the planned measures there would be no departure from the set economic and fiscal policy guidelines, adding that the 2020 budget would be balanced in that regard.

More budget news can be found in the Business news.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Public Servants' Salaries to Increase 6.12% Next Year, VAT Cut Cancelled

ZAGREB, October 16, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday the government would offer a 6.12% pay raise for all public servants next year in three instalments of 2%, which is why a VAT cut of one percentage point planned as of January 1 will be postponed.

"At the same time, we realise that many job complexity indices are unfair and that they were changed inconsistently for years. We wish to resolve this issue too, for which we will hire experts who will precisely establish the real complexity indices all jobs based on a detailed analysis," Plenković said in parliament.

The government is open for dialogue on that with the social partners in order to find a solution to the problems that are the cause of numerous illogical things, he added. "Also, we are raising the non-taxable income from 3,800 to 4,000 kuna. I'm also announcing a further significant minimum wage increase after consultations with the social partners."

He recalled that his government had raised the base pay for public servants, which did not go up between 2012 and 2016, by 11.5% (587 kuna).

Even though we promised to raise pensions by 5% by the end of our term, we have already raised them by 12%, twice as much as the previous three governments, Plenković said.

"Through sound economic growth and by cutting taxes for citizens and companies, we have ensured in only three years a three times higher average wage and two times higher minimum wage and pensions than the previous three governments," he said, adding that he understood the impatience of workers in education, healthcare and other public services, respecting their position that pay should be higher.

"However, we believe that after raising the salaries of all public servants by 11.5% in three years and offering an additional increase of 4%, the teachers' strike wasn't justified."

Submitting a report on the government's work, Plenković said his cabinet was ready for an election at any moment so that citizens could decide to whom they wanted to entrust the future of Croatia and their children.

He criticised the 2011-16 Social Democratic Party (SDP) government of "not being capable of pursuing a responsible economic policy and raising the standard of living."

He said that his government, despite numerous attempts at destabilisation and false accusations, had worked on delivering on all of its election promises for citizens' benefit, achieving many things.

"There were those who had an opportunity to take Croatia on the road of economic recovery, but they weren't up to the task. They divided society, they couldn't utilise the European Union membership for Croatia's development and to strengthen its position, they froze salaries and pensions and achieved a record high unemployment, they raised taxes while at the same time indebting Croatia. The only result of their term was that they indebted every citizens by an additional 17,500 kuna," Plenković said about the SDP government.

"Unlike them, we know where we are taking Croatia and how to run a state. In our activity, we are guided by patriotism, solidarity with the neediest, the values of freedom and the responsibility of every individual."

Plenković went on to say that under his government the number of backlog court cases dropped from "almost 530,000" three years ago to 350,000 this past May. The government is also investing in the better equipment and more efficient organisation of courts and prosecutor's offices.

He said that today entering the judicial profession, the appointing of judicial officials and decision making were left up to professionals, without any involvement from the executive authority or political influence.

The independence of the judiciary does not rule out the responsibility of judicial officials for their decisions, which must be unbiased and always based on the law and facts, he added.

Speaking of citizens with frozen bank accounts, a big problem encountered by his cabinet, he recalled that a law package was adopted to resolve the issue, enabling debt write-offs, as a result of which, he said, the number of these citizens dropped from 325,000 in May 2018 to 251,000 this past August.

More news about public sector can be found in the Politics section.

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