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.

Monday, 14 October 2019

After Schools, Strike Planned at Universities as Well

ZAGREB, October 14, 2019 - The leader of the Association of Croatian Trade Unions (MHS), Vilim Ribić, said on Sunday that a strike would soon take place at faculties, and he believes that this industrial action "will bring about a new impulse".

"The strike is going to happen the week after this next week. It remains to be seen on which day. These are the same demands for the same category of people. We will make sure that our people are not left behind. If we miss the chance now, an imbalance will occur in the salaries," the unionist told the commercial RTL broadcaster on Sunday evening.

Ribić's statement ensued after unions in the primary and secondary education system continued their industrial action. After a rotating strike in Split-Dalmatia, Varaždin, Dubrovnik-Neretva and Međimurje this past Friday, the strike will rotate on Monday to Krapina-Zagorje, Zagreb, Virovitica-Podravina, Koprivnica-Križevci and Bjelovar counties, the union leaders told a press conference last week. Teachers are calling for a 6.11% increase of their job complexity index.

Croatia's government said on Sunday evening that it was open to dialogue with representatives of all trade unions, and underscored its commitment to pursuing a responsible fiscal policy and a rise in salaries in accordance with possibilities.

The current government has increased the wage base by 587 kuna and monthly salaries have additionally risen through the three rounds of tax breaks, the government spokesman Marko Milić told Hina on Sunday afternoon. This government has reintroduced salary bonuses such as Christmas and holiday bonuses for the public sector's employees (which were abolished during the SDP-led government). For that purpose, the Andrej Plenković cabinet ensures 550 million kuna annually, and of that amount, 225 million kuna is set aside for salary bonuses in the science and education ministry's sector, he said.

Ribić, however, believes that the announced strike at universities "will bring about a new impulse". "Our demands are a tenth of what should be paid to us," the unionist said.

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

Friday, 11 October 2019

Almost 90% of Teachers in 4 Counties on Strike

ZAGREB, October 11, 2019 - Almost 90% of teachers in Split-Dalmatia, Varazdin, Dubrovnik-Neretva and Međimurje counties, where a rotating strike continued on Friday, have responded to the strike, leaders of the two largest teachers' unions said.

As many as 88.17% of secondary school teachers and 89.65% of primary schools teachers in these four counties were striking on Friday, they said.

Teachers are calling for a 6.11% increase of their job complexity index, and the strike will rotate on Monday to Krapina-Zagorje, Zagreb, Virovitica-Podravina, Koprivnica-Križevci and Bjelovar counties, the union leaders told a press conference.

Commenting on Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's remark that the strike had no legal grounds, union leader Branimir Mihalinec said that the government would show its weakness and fear if it tried to ban the strike.

He added that the prime minister's statements just showed that it was possible that the government might decide to resolve the conflict with violence because banning the strike would be legal violence.

"Everything is heading in that direction when the prime minister describes the constitutional right to strike as an obstruction. That right is written in the Labour Act. That might just be a good introduction for the prime minister to the presidency of the EU - to explain the violation of the right to strike and citizens' rights in this country," Mihalinec said.

"The response on the second day (of the strike) is good. This rotation has contributed to it being at the same level as the first day. These are good data, a high response particularly when it comes to a second day," Željko Stipić of the Preporod school union told a press conference earlier in the day. This union joined the strike launched by the Independent Union of Employees in Secondary Schools and the Union of Croatian Teachers after the process of conciliation with the government fell through.

More news about the strike 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.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Primary and Secondary School Teachers to Strike on Thursday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 7 October 2019

Decision on Teachers' Strike to Be Known on Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More education news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Hospital Staff to Briefly Stop Working on Wednesday

ZAGREB, September 1, 2019 - The head of a nurses' union announced on Saturday that on Wednesday the staff in several hospitals in the country would briefly stop working to warn citizens and the government that the situation in healthcare was untenable.

"We want to let our government and Health Ministry know and warn them that the healthcare system is indeed about to crash given the number of employees, working conditions, salaries, overtime and the absence of a collective agreement for a year and a half now," Ankica Prašnjak told Hina.

The drive, called The Eleventh Hour, is being prepared in relation to union negotiations on a branch collective agreement in healthcare and will begin around noon in one hospital in Zagreb, one in Dubrovnik and one in Split, she said, adding that staff would cease working for 15, 30 or 60 minutes, depending on the situation in each hospital.

Prašnjak said the drive would precede a strike, adding that citizens were aware that nurses and doctors were overworked.

"But we must draw attention in some way so that the work of nurses, doctors and all employees in healthcare is not trivialised," she said, adding that "it's necessary to raise our salaries and keep us in Croatia as we are one of the most interesting and in-demand professions in Europe, where we get very good offers of better working conditions and better salaries."

More health and medicine news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Friday, 23 August 2019

Bus Driver Unions Stage 10-Minute Strike

ZAGREB, August 23, 2019 - Bus driver trade unions started a 10-minute warning strike on Friday morning on all regular bus services across the country.

The bus drivers formed a column of about 30 buses and headed toward the Ministry of the Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure.

Buses in regular services stopped driving at ten o'clock Friday for ten minutes, only buses driving on motorways at the time of the action continued to operate.

Unions are demanding that bus drivers be given the status of officials in cases when they are exposed to attacks and threats as well as 10% wage increase in an effort to stop the drain of bus drivers from emigrating.

They are requesting an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Transport Minister Oleg Butković, adding that if their demands are not met they would launch an all-out strike on 9 September.

Union leader Stjepan Lisičak told Hina that today's action is intended to influence the government and relevant ministries to launch negotiations to resolve the problems in the public transport system.

More news about bus transport in Croatia can be found in the Travel section.

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