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.

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.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

School Unions Announce Strike for October 10

ZAGREB, October 1, 2019 - School union leaders on Tuesday announced strike action in elementary and secondary schools on October 10, stating that the government, two weeks from their last meeting, still has not responded to union demands for their job complexity index to be increased by 6%.

Unionists Sanja Šprem and Branimir Mihalinec handed over a notice to the government informing of the strike action in schools. "The strike will be held on October 10 and will continue until our demands are met, and unions will advise of the format of the strike the day before," Mihalinec said.

He underscored that the unions met with the government on September 5 and discussed a 6% increase of the job complexity index and that since then the government has avoided meeting with the unions.

Asked who in the government was stalling or refusing to meet with the unions, Mihalinec said that Finance Minister Zdravko Marić had to make calculations regarding the 6% increase and that Labour Minister Josip Aladrović was just a mediator, adding that it was unbelievable that the government had not responded yet.

Šprem said that the unions had discussed in detail the justification of their demands with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and that they believe the government was bluffing to see if the unions would back down. She added that the unions made it clear that they will not give up.

A conciliation procedure between the government and unions which is compulsory before conducting a strike will be held in the next five days.

"If we do not get any result during the conciliation stage, it will certainly come after pressure and the strike which will really last," Šprem said.

Minister of Science and Education Blaženka Divjak earlier in the day expressed disgruntlement with the way the situation was developing in talks with school unions, adding that she would continue the fight for a better status for teachers, which includes higher wages.

More news about education in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 23 September 2019

Employers Opposed to People Working After 65

ZAGREB, September 23, 2019 - President of the Independent Croatian Trade Union Krešimir Sever on Monday said that employers are opposed to workers staying in the workforce longer and want 65 to be the age when work-life ends.

Dissenting opinions have appeared, with the unions and government on one side, and employers on the other. Employers want the retirement age to remain at 65 and for them to be able to negotiate with employees who wish to work longer, Sever said after a meeting between representatives of the unions and employers with the government regarding amendments to labour legislation which currently defines the retirement age at 65.

Employers want room to get rid of workers when they wish so that they can attract pension recipients to earn extra money when working. Currently more than 14,000 pensioners are still working that way. Employers are not in favour of enabling workers to decide whether they wish to remain longer in full-time work with all rights regarding labour relations, Sever said.

There have still not been any calculations made regarding how much amendments would cost in the event he pension insurance allows full retirement at the age of 65.

"It is still not possible at the moment to conduct a due diligence analysis of the impact of the regulations however I think that there is no need for anyone to say anymore that that will cost 45 billion kuna which is what the government was saying just to intimidate the people," Sever added.

He said that the government had on several occasions acted in favour of employers and now the labour-pension legislation is moving toward some sort of balance.

When observed overall, however, there is still a lot that goes in favour of employers such as various non-taxable contributions and other things they were offered in the preceding period and now it is necessary to do a lot more in favour of employees so that a balance can be established, said Sever.

During the meeting on Monday morning amendments for six labour-pension laws were discussed.

More news about pension system can be found in the Business section.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Government to Accept All Demands Pension Referendum Initiative

ZAGREB, September 19, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday said that the government had decided to uphold all the proposals put forward by the "67 is too much" initiative and that it would be forwarding a bill to parliament to amend the Pension Insurance Act and return the age pension eligibility to 65 and that it would propose amendments to the Labour Act that will enable people to continue working if they wish after they turn 65.

The government will send a bill to parliament for amendments to the Pension Insurance Act. We will uphold all the proposals by the referendum initiative and amend certain aspects of the Pension Insurance Act and forward it to parliament, Plenković said at the cabinet meeting on Thursday without making mention of union demands for a referendum to be held regarding their demands.

He recalled that during the spring the government was confronted with activities by the "67 is too much" civil initiative and after the signature collection campaign it was established that more than 700,000 citizens had signed the petition for a referendum on the pension act.

The government, Plenković said, heard the message by Croatian citizens even though it considers that remaining longer in the workforce and being eligible for a pension later is not an objective circumstance that is specific to Croatia but to others, it is a fact that some people wish to work after they turn 65.

That has been shown by the 13,500 pensioners who returned to the labour market and there are more of them in various branches, he underscored.

"Hence, in addition to a bill on amendments to the Pension Insurance Act and, respecting the will of citizens, we will also propose amendments to the Labour Act and other laws that regulate the status of certain categories in such a way that people who wish to work after the age of 65 can do so," he said.

That will create a balance between the fundamental objective of the civil initiative and union demands and those citizens who supported the initiative with their signatures while at the same time providing the possibility for citizens who wish to remain in the workforce to do so, Plenković believes.

"The amendments will positively impact employment and the revenue and expenditure side of the state budget and the amount of pension allowances for future beneficiaries. We will be expanding the labour market and creating new opportunities on that market and we are listening to the message of 700,000 people but also offering a chance for all those who wish to work longer and remain on the labour market," he underlined.

He recalled that his government had embarked on a comprehensive pension reform so that the pension system can be adapted to demographic challenges and changes on the labour market and economic circumstances.

After Prime Minister Andrej Plenković announced on Thursday that the government had decided to uphold all the demands by the "67 is too much" union initiative and forwarded amendments to the Pension Insurance Act to parliament, MP Peđa Grbin (SDP) and Nikola Grmoja (MOST) said that the government had capitulated.

"This is the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) government's capitulation because it has realised that its proposal was bad and detrimental for citizens and that it would be defeated and that it is better to give in than to bash your head against a brick wall," Grbin said.

Naturally, we are pleased that the government has done that, Grbin said, because its proposal would have been disastrous for pensioners and citizens.

Asked to comment on the unions' insistence to conduct the referendum, Grbin said that if the referendum question is "Do you want a law like that to be adopted," and if parliament adopts it in the meantime then the referendum question is pointless.

In his comment of the government's decision, Grmoja said that "this was the only possible move considering the large number of signatures - admitting defeat and accepting the union demands." He believes that it seems to him that everything is possible in an election year despite the government's claims, and that the pension system won't cave in after all.

Goran Aleksić of the SNAGA party does not think that Plenković's announcement is a pre-election trick. "Why would we go to a referendum if this is simpler. I would do that too if I were Plenković," said Aleksić.

More referendum news can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Minister Sees No Reason for Unions to Take to the Streets

ZAGREB, September 17, 2019 (Hina) - Labour and Pension System Minister Josip Aladrović said on Monday that he did not see any reason for trade unions to call on citizens to take to the streets if a referendum was not called against the pension reform, saying that the matter would be discussed by the parliament.

Leaders of three union federations asked the parliament earlier in the day to call a referendum against the pension reform, otherwise they would call on citizens to take to the streets to ensure that the will of the 750,000 referendum petition signatories is honoured.

"We shall see, the matter is now up to the parliament to decide," Aladrović told reporters before a session of the HDZ party leadership, when asked about the statement by the three union federations.

Aladrović said that signatures for the referendum petition had been counted and sent to the parliament and that the parliament would most probably discuss the matter in the first or second week of its next session, which starts on Wednesday.

"We'll see what the parliament decides," he said.

Parliament Speaker and HDZ secretary-general Gordan Jandroković said that there would be no need for anyone to take to the streets.

"We will act in line with the law and everything will be all right," said Jandroković when asked about the union referendum campaign "67 is too much" and the unions' threats.

More referendum news can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Unions for Calling Pension Reform Referendum

ZAGREB, September 16, 2019 - Leaders of three union federations asked parliament on Monday to call a referendum against the pension reform, otherwise they would call on citizens to take to the streets to ensure that the will of the 750,000 referendum petition signatories is honoured.

SSSH leader Mladen Novosel told reporters outside parliament that they submitted the signatures more than three months ago and that, aside from the Public Administration Ministry's confirmation that enough signatures had been collected, there had been no word from the government or parliament about the next steps.

The unions expect parliament to set the referendum date by the end of this month, he said. If the referendum question is sent to the Constitutional Court for assessment, there is a 30-day deadline and possibly another 30 days for the Court to reply to parliament, Novosel said, adding that the unions would ask the Court to reply as soon as possible.

Novosel said there would be no more negotiations or agreements on the referendum, adding that the referendum must be held because the will of the people must be honoured.

NHS leader Krešimir Sever said the referendum must be called as soon as possible, telling those in power not to force the unions into political waters as they did not want to engage in politics.

He said those in power had pushed the unions into collecting signatures for the referendum during the European Parliament election campaign.

There is still enough time to call the referendum during October so that the presidential and parliamentary elections can be held in a relaxed manner, said Sever.

MHS leader Vilim Ribić reiterated that the unions would not meet with Labour and Pension System Minister Josip Aladrović until the referendum was called.

The 750,000 signatures collected is equal to the number of votes thanks to which the HDZ is the ruling party, so I don't think someone can toy with that, he said.

He said it was important to hold the referendum as a sign of democratic culture, calling on Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who he said decided whether parliament would send the referendum question to the Constitutional Court, to decide "in line with democratic, civilised and cultural standards" and call the referendum.

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

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Teachers' Unions Agree to Pursue Dialogue with Government

ZAGREB, September 5, 2019 - The unions of primary and secondary school teachers will not call a strike for now, after agreeing to pursue dialogue with the government on their demands for higher wages, the leader of the Secondary School Teachers' Union, Branimir Mihalinec, said in Zagreb on Thursday after meeting with the prime minister and relevant ministers.

About 1,500 primary and secondary school teachers rallied outside the government headquarters on Thursday demanding a six percent rise in their wages. After the protest, Mihalinec and the leader of the Primary School Teachers' Union, Sanja Šprem, met with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and relevant ministers.

"The conclusion of the meeting is that dialogue will continue. All our proposals will be studied by working groups at the ministries and there will be concrete solutions," Mihalinec said.

Šprem said that the unions had thus given the government a chance to make the calculations and show that education in Croatia was important.

The union leaders said that the government would present its opinion on their demands at a meeting which is expected to take place in about ten days' time.

Mihalinec said that this meant that there would be no strike on September 9, the first day of the new school year. He, however, added that a strike would be called if the unions were dissatisfied with the outcome of the next meeting with the prime minister.

More education news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Union Wants Long Term, Consistent Salaries in Civil Service

ZAGREB, August 27, 2019 - The Trade Union of State and Local Government Employees of Croatia said on Tuesday that raising the base pay would not equate salaries between public and government employees, and that the only solution was for the government and social partners to agree on a long term and consistent pay policy.

The announced 2% base pay rise as of September 1 will keep the status quo at the level above 2%, while pay rises by sector and activity will only deepen the existing pay differences between public and government employees, the union said.

Employees in comparable categories in state administration, public services and local government will continue to have different salaries, the union said.

Salaries in comparable categories should be equated as much as possible so that some rise slower while others increase faster, which is only possible in conditions of economic growth, the union added.

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

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