Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Government to Negotiate with Trade Unions on Pay Rise

ZAGREB, November 20, 2018 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Tuesday that one more round of talks with public sector trade unions on pay rise could be expected by the end of this week, and he did not rule out the possibility of a pay rise "in installments".

"We are going to meet one more time this week. We have to date negotiated the issue in a sincere, open and clear manner," Marić said on the margins of a conference on Croatia's economic policies, organised by the association of Croatian exporters.

He reiterated that in 2017, the wage base increased by 6 percent, and Christmas and holiday bonuses were also paid.

I heard from opposition MPs that wages should be raised I don't know how much, and those suggestions go from those who did not ensure the payment of either Christmas or holiday bonuses while they were in power and those who had lowered the wage base by three percent and ceased paying other bonuses. We must be fairer. We have about 900 million kuna available for 2019, and funds for Christmas and holiday bonuses are envisaged, we have set aside money to cover costs of pupils' transport," Marić said.

Asked about the possibility of a gradual increase in the monthly pay, Marić said that this possibility would be on the agenda of the negotiations. "We created this space for a 3% increase much before the outbreak of the Uljanik crisis. It is not true that we cannot do something due to Uljanik," the minister said, adding that the government would like to negotiate the wage policy for the medium term.

Speaking earlier in the day, Labour and Pension System Minister Marko Pavić said that a strike which public sector workers said would launch on November 28, demanding a wage increase of 5.8%, was "a legitimate option," adding however that the government's proposal regarding a 3% wage increase was the maximum the state budget could take at this moment.

Responding to questions from the press, Pavić said the salaries in state and public services had already gone up six percent this year, adding that one billion kuna was spent for this purpose. Pavić also said that the issue of transport costs had been resolved, costing 140 million kuna more than last year. Christmas bonuses and holiday allowance was another half a billion kuna.

The minister said the announced strike was legitimate, but that the government, which manages the budget, gave its maximum offer which is in accordance with budgetary possibilities for next year.

Commenting on the unions' dissatisfaction with the pension reform, Pavić said the government, at the proposal of trade unions, had cushioned the regulation about retirement age being set at 67, and that the application would begin in 2033 and not 2031, as originally planned.

For more on Croatia’s finances, click here.

Monday, 19 November 2018

Public Services to Strike on November 28?

ZAGREB, November 19, 2018 - Leaders of public sector workers said on Monday that public sector workers would launch a strike on November 28 and hold it on one day of every subsequent week until their demands for higher wages were met.

Croatian Teachers Union president Sanja Šprem told a news conference the strike announcement was a message to the government after talks between public sector workers and the government on a pay rise failed. "The government's offer was unfavourable, the government did not accept the arguments that public sector workers are underpaid and that their salaries should not lag behind the national average. The government's offer of a three-percent rise in the base pay in 2019 is humiliating and clearly shows that the government does not appreciate employees in public services," Šprem said.

She said that the strike would start on November 28 and continue on December 4 and 13 and be held every week for a day until the unions' demands were met. She also said that public sector unions had launched a nation-wide campaign for a base pay rise and better status of public sector employees, noting that strike was not the only instrument of pressure against the government.

The leader of the Independent Union of High School Employees, Branimir Mihalinec, said that the national campaign for better services for citizens and a better status for public sector employees would last until a wage policy for public services was defined in talks with the government. He said that unions today also announced a process of conciliation with the government.

Mihalinec said that unions would inform employers on time how long the strike would last on a specific day because it could last the whole day or less. He said that public sector unions wanted a wage increase of 5.8%, which is how much wages in the country are projected to grow next year.

Social Care Professionals Union head Jadranka Dimić said that wages were not the only reason for the strike but that it was also the fact that citizens, who during their working life pay high contributions for healthcare, social care and education, need quality services.

She warned that the government was saving on the employment of doctors, teachers, social workers and others, and noted that before a ban on public sector hiring, the social care system had 8,800 employees while now there were 1,727.

"The government is offering our members a three-percent pay rise, and that's only crumbs left over in the budget. By treating public sector workers that way the government is actually telling citizens that it does not care who will treat them or care about them, what kind of education their children will get or who will care for the country's cultural heritage. The three-percent offer is 150-200 kuna and that amount will not prevent young and educated people from leaving the system," Dimić said, criticising the proposal by the Croatian Employers Association (HUP) that a part of government employees should be transferred to the public sector.

As for HUP's proposal that surplus workers in the public sector should be transferred to the private sector, MHS trade union leader Vilim Ribić said that such an attitude was harmful and accused employers of a neoliberal worldview whose main idea, he said, was that spending is bad and should be reduced "so that taxes are reduced and greater profit can be made."

Finance Minister Zdravko Maric said on Monday unions had a legitimate right to strike after turning down a 3% base pay rise proposed by the government which he said was within the possibilities of the 2019 budget. "We came with an offer which some unions found acceptable and some didn't. I think we'll have another talk because they proposed it," Marić said.

Marić said the government never met with unions "with a hidden agenda but always very openly and transparently." "We understand and accept some of their proposals... that it's necessary to have a long term framework," he said, adding that it was necessary to see to the sustainability of public finances and that the government was offering a 3% base pay rise because only that was possible within the 2019 budget.

Reporters said the unions wanted a 6% rise. Marić responded that "no one would be happier than we if public finances could stand such a percentage." "That 3%, without Christmas and other bonuses, is about 900 million kuna. Every percentage is 300 million kuna," he said, adding that his ministry had envisaged that percentage before it had information about the state of affairs in the ailing Uljanik shipyard.

Asked what he expected of future meetings with the unions, Marić said he expected constructive dialogue.

For more on Croatia’s trade unions, click here.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Public Sector Trade Unions and Government at Odds Over Pay Increase

ZAGREB, November 13, 2018 - Leaders of Croatian public sector unions said on Monday they had rejected the government's offer of a base pay increase of three percent for 2019, adding that they would continue their struggle for a fair price of labour through various forms of pressure, including strikes.

Nine public sector unions have turned down the government's offer after their leaderships discussed the proposal, the leader of the Independent Union of Secondary School Teachers, Branimir Mihalinec, told a press conference. He added that the unions welcomed the government's plan to increase tax-free bonuses to 7,500 kuna (1,000 kuna).

Asked about the possibility of a strike, Mihalinec said they were still discussing this option and would decide on its timing. He noted that 86 percent of the membership had indicated they were in favour of striking.

The head of the Matica association of trade unions, Vilim Ribić, said that the government's offer was unacceptable because public-sector wages had been lagging behind those in the manufacturing sector for 10 years because of a recession and a wrong economic policy.

Unions have recently warned that the gap between public-sector and real-sector wages now stands at 18.9% compared to the pre-crisis period ten years ago.

Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Monday that a 3% increase of the base pay in 2019 is the government's last offer to public sector unions. Speaking in the commercial TV broadcaster RTL's news programme on Monday evening, Marić said that the government did not intend to back down.

"We have made that very clear because the 3% increase isn't that small in relation to the total wage budget, and it amounts to about 900 million kuna annually. On the other hand, naturally we would all want the increase to be higher and will work on creating conditions for that in the time to come," Marić said.

He said that the government had very clearly, openly and transparently communicated the base pay increase, similarly to the situation last year when an agreement was reached with some unions on an increase of 6% in the base wage.

"This increase, too, reflects the current fiscal and budget possibilities. That was our proposal, we didn't approach the matter with any hidden agendas, and were very open and transparent. Our plan is to continue talks on an annual basis and try and see what the budget possibilities are," he added.

He said that the government had never treated public and state services as less important than other sectors. "We are all aware of the importance of nurses, doctors, teachers, police officers, customs officers, cultural workers and welfare workers," he said.

For more on Croatia’s budget, click here.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Unions Protest against Pension Reform Plans

ZAGREB, October 20, 2018 - Several thousand people rallied in downtown Zagreb on Saturday for a protest against the government's pension reform proposal, organised by three trade union federations.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Unions Praise Increase in Minimum Wage Contribution

ZAGREB, October 10, 2018 - The NHS trade union federation welcome the announced revocation of the measure whereby employers who have paid minimum wages to employees have been freed of the obligation to pay 50% of contributions, and the unions find that measure to have been just an encouragement to employers to give minimum wages to more and more workers.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Trade Unions Demands End to Injustice toward Workers

ZAGREB, October 6, 2018 - The Independent Trade Unions (NHS) and the Federation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Croatia (SSSH) drew attention on Saturday to the injustices of the global economic system affecting Croatian workers and labour legislation, stressing the need to change the existing rules.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Trade Unions Reject 2% Rise in Public Sector Wages in 2019

ZAGREB, October 2, 2018 - The government has proposed a 2 percent increase in the base pay in the public sector in 2019 during negotiations with unions, unionist Branimir Mihalinec said after a round of talks on Monday evening.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Union Appeals Croatia Airlines Strike Ban

ZAGREB, August 18, 2018 - The attorney of Croatia Airlines' ORCA union Albin Hotić said on Friday the union had appealed at the Zagreb County Court an injunction banning a strike in the airline, and the court is due to forward the appeal to the Supreme Court.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Salaries Delayed in Major Shipyard, Unions Prepare for Industrial Action

ZAGREB, August 16, 2018 - Union leaders in the Rijeka-based "3. Maj" shipyard on Thursday stated that they had lodged a request for initiating mediation proceedings after a delay in the payment of the wage for July.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Tax Cuts Not Enough to Stop Mass Emigration

ZAGREB, August 4, 2018 - The NHS trade union federation said on Friday that the proposed changes to income tax and contributions will not dissuade young people from emigrating nor will they financially help the majority of citizens, who are in fact the most in need of aid.

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