Thursday, 31 October 2019

Teacher Union Rejects Government Deal, Strike to Continue

ZAGREB, October 31, 2019 - The leader of the striking trade union of secondary school teachers, Branimir Mihalinec, said on Wednesday evening that the proposal about a two-percent rise of the job complexity index for teachers was absolutely unacceptable because the striking unions demanded a 6.11 percent rise, and that the strike would therefore go on.

"If this is about an increase of the job complexity index of two percent, it is absolutely unacceptable for us as we demand 6.11 percent," the unionist told the national broadcaster (HRT) on Wednesday evening.

Mihalinec made the statement after HNS leader Ivan Vrdoljak said that aside from a 6% increase in the base pay in 2020 (based on a 2+2+2 model), job complexity indices in the education sector would go up by two percent as of June 30 if until that time a comprehensive solution to job complexity indices was not found.

"I don't know what gives the HNS the right to negotiate on our (the striking unions') behalf," Mihalinec wondered.

He said that the two percent rise was sufficient for the HNS to remain in the ruling coalition, but that it was not sufficient for the education-sector employees.

"We are going on with our rotating strike until we start talks with the Croatian government and until the government outlines its proposal on the solution of the problem," said Mihalinec.

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

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Strike to Be Held in Schools in 2 Counties and at Universities Nationwide on Wednesday

ZAGREB, October 30, 2019 - The independent union in science and higher education informed a news conference on Tuesday that it would again stage a nationwide day-long strike at universities, while two striking unions of primary and secondary school teachers said at their news conference that their rotating strike would continue in Split and Virovitica counties.

Igor Radeka of the independent union in science and higher education said that they would again strike specifically for three categories of employees in the science and higher education system - non-teaching staff who account for about 40% of employees at universities; lecturers of whom there are about 700 to 800; and about a score of artistic assistants at universities.

They staged the first industrial action of this kind last Thursday.

Radeka said today that the union expected again a high turnover, although an exact data had been provided for the turnout at the 24 October strike. He also said that in the event that the government diced not to pay striking employees for these days of industrial action, the union had enough funds to compensate strikers.

Also this union said that media reports about the average monthly take-home pay for teachers standing at 7,200 kuna was misinformation.

The union provided different figures of pre-tax monthly salaries for teachers, explaining that a take-home pay depended on supplements, tax breaks and other factors, including a place of residence of the salary recipient, years of service and so on.

For instance, a single person, who lives in Zagreb, and just starts working as a teacher in a school is paid 5,998 kuna, while the pre-tax pay is approximately 8,500 kuna.

Media reports on Monday about monthly wages of leaders of education sector employees being higher than the monthly salary of the country's Prime Minister seem to anger the union leaders, however, they declined to specify the ir monthly take home pay.

When asked today about this topic, Vilim Ribić of the independent union in science and higher education replied: "What do I have to confess about my salary? To whom I am supposed (to confess)? I have been earning my salaries for 30 years in an honest manner."

"Am I a criminal," Ribić said at a news conference and added that the trade unions would make public the wages of their leaders when media outlets publish salaries of their chief editors.

Branimir Mihalinec of the striking union of secondary school teachers, today said that his wage was "a business secret".

He criticised media for commenting on union leaders' salaries in a bid to divert attention from "the central topic".

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

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.

Monday, 21 October 2019

Science and Higher Education Sectors to Strike on Thursday

ZAGREB, October 21, 2019 - After conciliation between the union in science and higher education and the Croatian government failed on Monday, the union announced a day-long strike at universities faculties for Thursday.

Labour and Pension System Minister Josip Aladrović said after the meeting on Monday morning that the government found the union's demands unacceptable, while unionist Igor Radeka criticised the government for "offering virtually nothing."

Last week, unionist Vilim Ribić said that the union in science and higher education would hold a strike on October 24 demanding a wage increase for workers receiving the lowest wages in that sector in an effort to remove the pay gap between employees in the sector compared to those working in the civil service.

Lecturers and non-teaching staff, about 700 of them, will strike, union leader Vilim Ribić told a press conference last week calling on all research and teaching staff to join the strike as a sign of solidarity.

The strike will be repeated once a week until the fulfilment of the union's demands, Radeka said today.

On Monday, elementary and primary school teachers went on a day-long nationwide strike.

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

Friday, 18 October 2019

Universities to Strike on October 24

ZAGREB, October 18, 2019 - The union in science and higher education on Friday announced that it would hold a day-long strike on October 24 demanding a wage increase for workers receiving the lowest wages in that sector in an effort to remove the pay gap between employees in the sector compared to those working in the civil service.

Lecturers and non-teaching staff, about 700 of them, will strike, union leader Vilim Ribić told a press conference calling on all research and teaching staff to join the strike as a sing of solidarity.

If the union demands are not resolved, the strike will be repeated on Wednesday, October 30, he said.

Ribić claimed that unions in the education sector deserved an increase of their base wage, however that increase is insufficient.

He said that 11 state administration and civil servants' unions had come to an agreement to demand a double-digit (18.3%) pay increase of their base wage and that the 6.12% increase is just a starting point for negotiations on the base wage that are expected to start next week.

The unions are also seeking an increase in the job complexity index which Ribić said was reduced to 3% during the Social Democratic Party government and that the 4, 8 and 10% supplement on seniority be reinstated.

"Considering that that six percent is a starting position and that employees in education managed to obtain that, I appeal on all unions in the county in state administration and the civil service to go on strike in a sign of solidarity with those who are yet to get that," Ribić said.

Macroeconomic analyst in the union, Matija Kroflin underscored that the union was seeking a 6.11% wage increase only for those members with the lowest earnings, for non-teaching positions in science and higher education facilities and a 3.5% increase for teaching staff.

Kroflin added that the union would not call for an increased job complexity index for full professors, associate professors or assistant professors or for teaching/research assistants.

More news about universities 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.

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