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, 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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Friday, 11 October 2019

Wage Increase in Public Services of National Interest

ZAGREB, October 11, 2019 - The leader of the Association of Croatian Trade Unions (MHS), Vilim Ribić, said on Friday that a radical, double-digit wage increase in public services was a first-class national interest, assessing that there was 4.7 billion kuna available for that in the state budget.

"Our children are leaving the country, 400,000 have left. In that situation all dogmas about financial consolidation, public debt and deficit need to be put aside. We have to use our last internal reserves," Ribić said after the start of negotiations on an annex to the basic collective agreement for public sector employees.

Ribić recalled that Finance Minister Zdravko Marić had forecast a deficit of 0.9% of GDP yet a surplus was generated. That means that there is about 4.7 billion kuna available for a possible wage increase, he said.

"That leaves room for a double-digit wage increase. That is a psychological message to the people that things are changing for the better, that they need to stay in Croatia and that not everything is hopeless. We should not be bailing out companies before we save the people," said Ribić.

"We constantly have situations like the one in Uljanik and it is time for citizens of this country to have their turn," he added.

The government's negotiation team, Ribić said, insists that there is a lack of money due to financial consolidation, however, public sector unions have pointed out that the enormous number of people emigrating, low wages and the dissatisfaction of the people are a much more important problem.

"We believe that considering the current budget potential, the government can meet union demands without any problems. We expect a significant step forward regarding wage increases because wages are growing much faster in neighbouring countries. Of all eastern European countries, Croatia has been at the bottom of the ladder regarding wage increases over the past five years," Ribić underscored.

Negotiations on the collective agreement for public services will continue over the next ten days, with Ribić underscoring that there is a lot to be discussed, however, raising the base pay is a priority.

Commenting on Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's message that the strike in schools was absurd, Ribić said that the message is irresponsible. The prime minister is a diplomat who is not familiar with economic processes, he said. "People have the right to strike and he has to re-examine his starting position," Ribić added.

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

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