Friday, 23 August 2019

Unions Expect Production at 3. Maj Shipyard to Start as Soon as Possible

ZAGREB, August 23, 2019 - Union leader at the Rijeka-based 3. Maj shipyard, Juraj Šoljić on Thursday said that preparations were already being made to launch production at the dock which is something workers are hoping will occur as soon as possible.

Šoljić added that workers also expected to be paid nine outstanding wages as soon as possible.

He appealed on the Finance Ministry to start paying wages and other activities so that production could commence.

Šoljić added that Edi Kučan would remain as the director of the dock and that the Supervisory Board had extended his term for open ended period.

Asked about a new bail out for the dock, Šoljić said that they were aware that the shipyard could not remain to be under state ownership.

"This is an opportunity for 3. Maj to find a new strategic partner in the next two years that will seriously enter into 3. Maj and be involved in ship building. We have a lot of support from the Economy Ministry in that regard and the judiciary and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

There are about 700 workers currently at the dock and the union considers that they are sufficient to launch production and if necessary, to engage sub-contractors.

Earlier in the day the government decided to allow the issuance of a conditional payment guarantee in the amount of 150 million kuna to the Rijeka-based 3. Maj shipyard.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that finance-wise that meant that the guarantee would not cause any additional costs for the government and that it will make it possible for the dock to complete the ships already under construction at the dock.

More news about Croatian shipyards can be found in the Business section.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Croatian Bus Drivers to Go on 10-Minute Strike on Friday

ZAGREB, August 21, 2019 - Two trade unions in the Croatian bus transport system on Wednesday said that they would hold a ten-minute walkout on Friday morning in all regular bus services across Croatia, demanding a wage increase and for a collective agreement to be concluded.

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

Services at bus stations will also stop working during the ten-minute action, and disgruntled workers are going to hold a protest rally outside the building of the Ministry of the Maritime Affairs and Transport in Zagreb.

One of their demands is that bus drivers should be given the status of officials in cases when they are exposed to attacks and threats.

The union leaders said today that they requested an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and the ministers of transport, finance, economy and education.

They said that they would hold another strike action on 8 September if their demands were not met.

They also demand that the authorities finally comply with Regulation (EC) No 1370/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2007 on public passenger transport services by rail and by road.

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

Monday, 19 August 2019

Health Sector Unions Insist on Wage Increase

ZAGREB, August 19, 2019 - Ahead of a meeting with Health Minister Milan Kujundžić, the head of the Independent Union in Health and Health Insurance, Stjepan Topolnjak, on Monday said that the unions would not back down from demanding a wage increase that was agreed to during collective negotiations.

"We want to get what we initialled - a wage increase of three percent for working conditions and four percent for life and health responsibility for all workers in the healthcare sector working in diagnostics and treatment, which amounts to 400 million kuna a year," Topolnjak told Hina.

Union representatives are expected to resume the talks with Kujundžić on Tuesday to discuss starting positions after a previous round of negotiations collapsed whereby a 3% wage increase as of 1 August and a 4% increase as of 1 October this year was on the table.

"If the government does not accept that and has a hidden agenda, our demands will be higher. We expect Kujundžić to present the government's stance and what we can expect. We want negotiations to be held at such a pace that they be concluded by 15 September and if that does not occur, our committees will decide to launch union action," Topolnjak said.

The leader of the nurses' union, Anica Prašnjak expects a definite answer from the health ministry and what the government has decided to do to deal with the needs of people employed in the health sector, primarily nurses and doctors who are in high demand on the European market.

Health Minister Milan Kujundžić has announced that he will ask the unions to have patience and wait for about 15 to 20 days so that the Finance Ministry can make some calculations and for the government to come to an agreement. He is convinced that the government will make a decision on a wage increase within a month's time.

He underscored that a wage increase in the health sector of 3+4 percent is the "bare minimum" that needs to be accepted so that physicians and nurses stay in Croatia and added that he was grateful that the unions did not go on strike during the tourist season.

An agreement was signed in the Health Ministry on July 31 to extend the Collective Agreement for workers in health and health insurance with two unions however the government did not accept an initialled wage increase for 72,000 workers in the system and instead announced further negotiations.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Unions Will Not Meet with Labour Minister until Parliament Calls Referendum

ZAGREB, August 14, 2019 - Three trade union federations which go by the acronyms the SSSH, the NHS and the MHS, said on Wednesday that they would not respond to Labour Minister Josip Aladrović's invitation to talks until the parliament decided to call a referendum against the statutory retirement age of 67.

The newly-appointed labour and pension system minister previously invited trade unions to a meeting set for August 22, "for the sake of further development of social dialogue, cooperation and partnership."

"For the meeting to be held, the key dispute that has lasted for months needs to be resolved. Until the parliament adopts a decision to call a referendum based on the '67 is too much' initiative, the government's commitment to defining and implementing policies and measures for sustainable development through a true social dialogue will remain questionable," the three trade union federations said in a joint statement.

The unions believe that the relationship between them and the government deteriorated additionally in 2018, when the government defined a new pension reform without consultation with trade unions.

That was the reason why unions launched a signature-collection campaign to ask for a referendum on changes to retirement terms.

"That was the reason why the agreement on the establishment of the new Economic and Social Council was not signed, and the government's anti-reform campaign resulted in our demand for the replacement and later resignation of the former minister and for the termination of the old agreement," the three trade union federations said, noting that their decision to walk out of social dialogue did not happen overnight and that social dialogue could not be restored overnight either.

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

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Unions Call for Applying Same Criteria to All Shipyards

ZAGREB, August 6, 2019 - The leader of the Jadranski Sindikat trade union, Boris Cerovac, asked on Tuesday that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who was expected to visit the Rijeka-based 3. Maj shipyard with three government ministers during the day, apply the same rules to the ailing Uljanik dock as are those applied to other Croatian shipyards.

Addressing a news conference in Pula, Cerovac welcomed the government's decision to try to salvage 3. Maj but expressed dissatisfaction with the way the government had been treating the Pula-based Uljanik dock over the past year and a half.

Cerovac also criticised local politicians for not demanding a parliamentary debate on Uljanik.

"You should fight for the people who have elected you to your posts," he said.

Samir Hadžić, a member of Uljanik's board of creditors and a former member of its supervisory board, said that the prime minister's visit to 3. Maj was of a ceremonial nature and that the government's criteria as to whether a shipyard would be salvaged or not depended solely on political criteria - the voter base or other political interests.

"There is no economic or any other logic in that. Uljanik built 60% of ships in the last 30 years, and yet we have been abandoned as worthless. Still, we have an offer to build five cruise ships, there are two ships that should be completed, and a third one is in Rijeka," said Hadžić, confident that if the government acted and used the present possibilities, Uljanik would have a chance to restart production and continue Pula's shipbuilding tradition.

More news about Croatian shipbuilding can be found in the Business section.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Unions Say Tax Reform Benefits Employers

ZAGREB, July 29, 2019 - The leaders of the SSSH, NHS and MHS union federations said on Monday the fourth tax reform round benefited employers while leaving workers crumbs.

Speaking at a press conference, SSSH president Mladen Novosel said "employers will be least dissatisfied with this fourth relief round." He called as populist the measure under which workers under 25 would be exempt from paying income tax and those aged 25-30 would pay 50% income tax, saying it would not stop young people from emigrating, while discriminating against other workers.

NHS president Krešimir Sever said the measure was being adopted without concrete calculations and that it would cut the revenues of local communities which, he added, might cut kindergarten subsidies, increase utility prices and introduce local taxes.

He said the government was currying favour with employers at any cost, at the expense of pension and health insurance as well as workers with the lowest or average wages.

MHS economist Matija Kroflin said the fourth tax reform round would not stimulate GDP growth or result in higher salaries or lower prices.

"Nearly 3 billion kuna of the estimated 3.7 billion kuna (tax reduction) refers to the reduction of the general VAT rate from 25% to 24% and to the VAT reduction for the hospitality industry," he said, adding that said three billion would end up in the pockets or business and restaurant owners.

The unionists called on the government to raise the non-taxable income from 3,800 to 4,370 kuna, which is 60% of the median pay, and the minimum wage to 4,370 gross kuna, and to reintroduce a 12% income rate on salaries of up to 17,500 kuna.

More news about taxes can be found in the Business section.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Government Will Officially Invite Unions to Continue Dialogue

ZAGREB, July 24, 2019 - The newly appointed Minister of Labour and Pension System, Josip Aladrović, on Wednesday announced that he would officially invite unions to sit down together and continue social dialogue regarding common topics, including the "67 is too much" referendum related to the pension reform.

At the moment that invitation is very inclusive and refers to everyone, and it will be officially made very soon, once we determine what topics we wish to discuss with them, Aladrović told reporters ahead of an inner cabinet meeting.

I am certain that unions and employers will respond and we certainly have something to talk about, he said.

In reference to reporters' comments that the unions are not that eager regarding negotiations and whether he had anything to offer that would appease them, Aladrović said that that was a matter of social dialogue.

"I believe that that is all a matter of dialogue and that when we sit down at the table, we will see what we can talk about, what needs to be agreed, what the common topics are and what social partners want to discuss," he underscored.

Asked whether he would appeal to unions to give up the referendum, Aladrović said that all topics related to social dialogue referring to labour and the pension system "are desirable topics to be put on the table with social partners."

He did not agree with reporters that his hands were tied thanks to what his predecessor Marko Pavić had done.

"Signatures were collected and they are going to the Public Administration Ministry and those who will decide whether the referendum will be held, how many signatures are required and how many were collected. I think that our hands are not tied and that we are open to social dialogue. The unions are rejecting dialogue but I will use one more opportunity to invite them and I think that with communication and dialogue we can resolve problems," Aladrović said.

He did not wish to prejudge what would happen if the unions do not agree to a dialogue.

He did not agree with the president of the Independent Croatian Trade Unions, Krešimir Sever, that he will not have the political weight to oblige other ministers to participate in the work of the Economic-Social Council (GSV).

"I have already talked with the ministers. We are very inclined toward the GSV and I am certain that I will have the weight to invite other ministers and that they will respond," he said.

He assessed that the measure to employ pensioners has shown exceptionally good results and added that since 1 January more than 13,000 pensioners have been employed, mostly in retail, manufacturing as well as in some professional, scientific and education categories.

More news about labour issues can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Unionists Slam Government for Not Publishing Letter for Croatia's Admission to ERM II

ZAGREB, July 8, 2019 - Representatives of the Matica union federation criticised the government on Monday for not making its letter of intent and action plan for Croatia's admission to the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II) public.

"Unfortunately, the government is treating this issue with undemocratic inconsistency, and to make matters worse, state institutions and some media outlets are taking part in such conduct. Croatia's general public is not faced with the truth, which is extremely concerning and alarming," the leader of the trade union federation, Vilim Ribić, told a news conference in Zagreb.

This past Thursday, Croatia sent a letter to the euro area member states, Denmark and EU institutions, expressing its intent to enter ERM II, taking the first formal step towards participation in ERM II, which precedes the adoption of the euro as legal tender.

The letter expresses Croatia's readiness to implement reforms as part of further preparations for participation in ERM II. By successfully participating in ERM II for at least two years, Croatia should formally meet the exchange rate criterion of nominal convergence. Croatia has been meeting the other criteria for a while, namely price stability, public finance sustainability and interest rate convergence, while the prudent monetary and fiscal policy should ensure that it stays that way.

Ribić today said that neither the letter nor the action plan were presented to the public, and members of the National Euro Adoption Council who had convened last week had not been provided with the papers.

As for the pros and cons of the introduction of the euro, Ribić said that the discussions were reduced to "the trivial matter" of whether prices would go up, which did not have a crucial impact on the nation's destiny.

Ribić said the problem lay with the lack of the euro area's readiness for Croatia. "Croatia may be ready for the euro area, however, the euro area is not ready for Croatia or smaller peripheral countries in the European Union that are marked by a weak economic growth and mass-scale emigration," said the unionist.

He insists that the European Union has not developed institutions or compensation mechanisms necessary for countries that fare worse when the common interest, monetary, fiscal and tax policy is conducted.

"The EU is not yet a finished house. There are no mechanisms to help us to have a normal growth and development in cases when we are outvoted. In times of crisis, Croatia has no other way but to torment its own population, which we have witnessed to in the last 10 years," Ribić claimed.

The Matica introduces itself as the Association of Croatian Trade Unions, consisting of 10 trade unions in the field of health care, preschool, primary and secondary education, science and higher education, the judiciary and banking activities.

More news about the introduction of the euro can be found in the Business section.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Union Proposes Supplementary Health Insurance Census in Line with Poverty Threshold

ZAGREB, June 14, 2019 - The Croatian Pensioners Union on Friday asked Finance Minister Zdravko Marić and Health Minister Milan Kujundžić to raise the supplementary health insurance census to 2,321 kuna, which is the Croatian poverty threshold for a single pensioner.

The union proposes that the income census be determined every year in line with the poverty threshold which the national statistical office determines every year.

The union says in a press release that pensions will soon be indexed for the second time this year and that the 3.13% increase of the lowest pensions could result in about 10,000 pensioners losing the right to free health insurance.

With the last indexation, more than 3,000 pensioners received 40-50 kuna higher pensions, losing free supplementary health insurance, as a result of which they had to start paying 70 kuna a month, the union says, adding that now 250,000 of those with the lowest pensions are at risk of losing supplementary health insurance.

The income census has not been changed since 2004, which means that everyone whose income per family member exceeds 1,516 kuna, as well as single pensioners with incomes exceeding 1,939 kuna, will lose that right.

About 173,000 pensioners currently exercise the right to free supplementary health insurance. Since 2012, the number of supplementary health insurance policies paid by the state has dropped from 740,000 to 480,000, the union says.

More news about health issues can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Trade Unions Present 748,624 Signatures Collected for Pension Referendum

ZAGREB, June 13, 2019 - Unionists who launched the "67 is too much" campaign to collect signatures for a referendum on restoring the statutory pension age from 67 to 65 on Thursday submitted to the parliament a total of 65 boxes with 748,624 signatures collected from 27 April to 11 May.

In order for the referendum on pension eligibility to be called, it was necessary to collect at least 373,568 signatures.

After meeting with the unionists, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković explained the procedure to follow the receipt of the signatures, which also includes checking the validity of signatures and their exact number.

Furthermore, there is a possibility for the parliamentary committee on the Constitution to propose that the parliament should ask the Constitutional Court to check whether the proposed referendum question complies with the Constitution.

Asked by the press whether he believes that this question should be sent to the Court, Jandroković said that he would discuss the matter with party colleagues and coalition partners before giving an answer on the matter.

Jandroković said that the unionists were always welcome to the negotiating table, however, it seemed to him that they were now disinclined to resume the negotiations.

Asked by the press how come rating agencies and international institutions commend the pension reform undertaken by the government while the changes are being met with opposition in the country, Jandroković recalled the positive economic indicators such as economic growth and reform processes, including the pension reform, for which Croatia has been rated well.

"It is the people that have the final say, but it can happen that a good measure adopted by the government is contested by citizens," he said.

Mirela Bojić, one of the union coordinators who presented the signatures, said today that calling the referendum would be a good opportunity for the parliament to help citizens restore faith in top Croatian institutions.

Recently, Bojić has said she believes that the referendum question should pass the test at the Constitutional Court, even though "anything is possible in Croatia".

More referendum news can be found in the Politics section.

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