Thursday, 21 April 2022

Unions Announce Protest March, Rally on Labour Day

ZAGREB, 21 April 2022 - After a two-year break, the SSSH union federation will mark International Workers' Day on 1 May with a protest march and rally in Zagreb to warn about the need for pay rises, better protection of workers' rights, and collective bargaining.

After two years when International Workers' Day could not be observed due to COVID, the conditions now exist for doing it in a safe and appropriate way, with a protest, Dijana Šobota of the SSSH told the press on Thursday.

€750 minimum wage goal by 2026

SSSH president Mladen Novosel said the unions' goal was for the average pay to be at least €1,500 and minimum wage €750 by 2026. He is confident the goal will be achieved through collective agreements, which, he said, some employers continue to refuse.

The protest rally will be the first warning that we will do everything in the coming period to have a clear system and pace of collective bargaining in the private sector as well as maximum coverage of workers with collective agreements, he said.

We demand that the government, as the employer, raise wages in the public sector in line with GDP and inflation growth, and that, as the legislator, it encourages collective bargaining and reduces currying favor with employers, he added.

Novosel said that despite the government's measures, the cost of living had additionally increased due to the war in Ukraine and that he hoped the government would agree to public sector unions' pay rise demands.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 3 April 2022

Public Sector Unions Reject Government's Offer of 2% Increase in Base Pay

ZAGREB, 3 April 2022 - The executive authorities of all 11 public sector unions have rejected the government's offer of a 2% increase in base pay and demanded a 4% increase, giving the unions the green light for a strike.

"Industrial action will depend on the outcome of the next meeting between government and union negotiators, expected to be held next week", the secretary general of the Matica Association of Croatian Trade Unions, Mirela Bojić, said in a statement on Sunday.

The decision has been unanimously made by the negotiating committee on a basic collective agreement for public sector workers after the temporary suspension of talks between the unions and the government.

"The latest data on inflation shows that prices have increased by 6.3% on an annual level. Thus, the public sector unions continue to insist on a base pay increase of 4% as of 1 April, and for additional talks at the end of May on increasing the base pay further in the second half of the year, depending on inflation, other pay rates in the country and the economic situation", the unions said.

"It is inconceivable that the government, despite the rise in living costs, despite the rise in production and despite the higher than expected budget revenues, is deciding to reduce pay for people who bore the brunt of maintaining society and government at the time of the pandemic. Such a socially autistic approach is appalling to all workers and their families", the unions said.

For more, check out our business section.

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Protest Held Against Layoffs at Zagreb Holding

ZAGREB, 29 March 2022 - Some of the trade unions operating within the Zagreb Holding multi-utility conglomerate held a protest rally on Tuesday, demanding the resignation of the management and suspension of the process of identifying redundant labour.

Several hundred protesters, including employees and union leaders, gathered outside the Holding's headquarters, waving union flags and holding banners saying "Down with the ZG Holding management" and "Stop this farce".

The protesters demanded that the workers declared redundant should not be laid off before a reorganisation plan and a new job classification plan were adopted.

The protesting unions had been involved in social dialogue with the management on identifying redundant labour. Unhappy with the process, seven unions from the SSSH union federation withdrew from the negotiations in early February, while the leaders of so-called in-house unions continued negotiating.

The in-house unions and the management agreed a list of 447 staff to be included in a redundancy programme. 

Baldo Kovačević, the leader of one of the protesting unions, said that the whole process had been poorly led because the management negotiated with the "illegitimate body", a negotiating committee comprising seven representatives of the in-house unions and only two from the SSSH. He said the whole situation was bizarre because the same people who for years had been involved in hiring were now deciding on layoffs.

Commenting on the protest, Mayor Tomislav Tomašević said that the social dialogue was constructive and that a majority of the unions were continuing the dialogue while only a minority was protesting.

He said that the original list of 544 redundant staff had been reduced to 447, denying the claims that it included cleaning and security staff.

Tomašević said that identifying redundant labour was part of the process in which the Holding, after operating at a loss for two years, should be put back on its feet so that it could settle its debts next year.

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Unions say Average Wage Amounts to Two-thirds of Decent Pay

ZAGREB, 23 March 2022 - The Coalition for Decent Pay warned on Wednesday that the average pay in Croatia amounted to only two thirds of decent pay, asking the government to adopt policies that would gradually guarantee wages for all workers.

"Decent pay means that we can afford quality living standards, including the payment of regular as well as extraordinary costs and saving," said Coalition member Sandra Kasunić of the Centre for Peace Studies.

According to a calculation by the Coalition for Decent Pay, before the latest price increases, decent pay in Croatia amounted to HRK 10,428, but according to data for 2021, the average wage last year equaled to only two-thirds of that amount.

"The amounts in question show that decent pay for all in Croatia is, for the time being, a distant future," said Kasunić, recalling that decent pay was a constitutional category and basic human right recognised by Croatia.

"Even though the government has shown social sensitivity with its set of measures designed to cushion the impact of rising prices on living standards, the problem is that the package does not cover all workers", she said.

"We call on the government to expand its measures to also include workers who do not earn decent pay, and we demand that it adopt policies that will gradually guarantee the implementation of all social and economic rights," she said.

Mario Iveković of the New Trade Union said that they did not expect minimum pay to be raised to the level of decent pay in two years, but asked the government to make decent pay the ultimate goal of the minimum pay, as stated in the Constitution.

Iveković said the Coalition for Decent Pay would join a European civic initiative, which in two months will start collecting signatures to seek a "strong" social responsiblity directive from the European Commission (EC).

The EC has put forward the first draft of a directive which aims to commit corporations with more than 500 workers and annual revenue of more than €150 million to respect workers' rights.

Even though that limit for some industries, such as the textile industry, is 250 workers and a revenue of €40 million, civic initiatives want it to be lowered so that the directive could apply also to small and medium companies.

"We will insist on the payment of decent pay which is mentioned in the directive," said Iveković.

(€1 = HRK 7.572093)    

For more, check our lifestyle section.

Saturday, 26 February 2022

Croatian, Slovenian Unions of Migrant Workers Sign Agreement

ZAGREB, 26 Feb 2022 - Ana Horvat was elected president of the Croatian union of migrant workers in Varaždin on Saturday and the union also signed an agreement with the Slovenian union of migrant workers.

Horvat replaced Franjo Lazar, who tendered an irrevocable resignation, telling the press that one of the reasons was his failure to solve one of the biggest problems of Croatian migrant workers, double taxation.

He said the union sent nine proposals to the Finance Ministry a month ago but "received no reply, yet we proposed how to solve that more easily, less painfully."

Lazar said the union was established to keep young families in Croatia. People will emigrate from border counties, notably in northwestern Croatia, as well as from Istria, if double taxation continues, he added.

He said "every county interprets the double taxation agreement differently."

Asked if the government's incentive of HRK 200,000 could motivate Croatians working abroad to return to Croatia, Lazar said it could not and that in Austria they could make that in net pay in ten months.

The union's new president said Slovenians working abroad had similar problems and that this was why an agreement was signed with their union.

"They have managed to solve parts of that. We are continuing, we are not giving up and are working to achieve the best conditions possible for the people who work abroad," said Horvat.

The Slovenian union was established in 2016, its president Mario Fekonja said, adding that by working together the two unions will be able to show Europe the extent of their problems more easily.

"One of the fundamental postulates of the European Union is the free flow of labour and capital, which the financial administrations of Slovenia and Croatia, with their behaviour, deny us," he said, adding that both "operate illegally and arbitrarily."

Our priority is for all tax offices at national level to act equally and in line with the law, Fekonja said.

Tuesday, 22 February 2022

FinMin Says New Base Pay Meeting With Unions Next Week, Won't Speculate on Outcome

ZAGREB, 22 Feb 2022 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Tuesday, after a meeting on base pay with the unions of government and public service employees, that a new meeting had been arranged for next week, but would not speculate if a final agreement would be reached then.

Two meetings were held at the Labour Ministry today between negotiating teams of the government and the unions on the signing of a basic collective agreement for public service employees and a collective agreement for government employees.

Asked by the press about the possibility of progress in the negotiations, Marić said the government would extend the application of the existing collective agreements.

"We'll see if we can agree or maybe not," he added.

The head of the union of Interior Ministry employees, Zdravko Lončar, said the unions were asked at the meeting to revise their demands given the impact of government measures to buffer the impact of energy price hikes on the state budget.

"We are trying to be realistic... and besides base pay, we also expect an agreement on transport expenses," he added.

Members of the press asked Marić if he was looking for a new state secretary at his ministry to replace Stjepan Čuraj, who the media speculate is a candidate for the new construction minister.

Marić said more would be known after the ongoing meeting of the ruling coalition. Čuraj "has gained a good insight into the functioning of the government and certain ministries, including construction from the perspective of (post-earthquake) reconstruction," he added.

Marić said he did not expect the appointment of a new construction minister to slow down reconstruction, but added that the new minister and their team must immediately get to work as reconstruction is one of the more important priorities.

The press remarked that Labour Minister Josip Aladrović, who is allegedly under investigation, did not speak to the press after today's meeting with the unions as he had in the past, Marić said it was nothing unusual and that Aladrović actively participated in the meeting.

"It's necessary to respect the presumption of innocence and I can only say good things about him as a person and colleague. We are cooperating well and will continue to as long as we are ministers," Marić said, adding that the negotiations were not affected but were constructive.

Asked if he himself had been subjected to pressure, Marić said that came with the territory when one was a minister.

"Our job is to prevent such situations and act in line with the law, and when it comes to the state budget, everyone wants a little more," he added.

As for the incentives awarded in 2018 by the then economy minister Darko Horvat, who is now in custody on suspicion of abuse of office, and requests for more money, Marić said the state budget was executed in line with the law and that it could be revised during the year.

Marić said he was taken aback by Horvat's arrest on Saturday and that he did not like it, either personally or professionally, when such things happened.

Asked how the government would function given that the anti-corruption office "USKOK is after three ministers and another one who is the subject of serious accusations," Marić said the public would be informed after the ongoing ruling coalition meeting.

Tuesday, 15 February 2022

Government Employee Unions Demand 8% Base Pay Rise

ZAGREB, 15 Feb 2022 - Croatian Police Trade Union president Dubravko Jagić said on Tuesday, after negotiations with government representatives, that government employee unions demanded an 8% base pay rise as public employee unions, rejecting the government's offer of a 2% rise.

We demand the same as the public services, a base pay rise in three instalments: by 4% as of 1 March, by 2% as of 1 July and by 2% as of 1 November, Jagić told the press after the ninth round of negotiations at the Labour Ministry.

"I think we will arrive very soon at a joint solution to the satisfaction of our members," he said, adding that they expect a new government offer next week.

"The new collective agreement must be better than the current one. We demanded from the government a 13th month pay, increases of indices and everything else, just like the public services. We expect to be equated with the public services," Jagić said.

Government will take a position on union demands next week

Assistant Labour Minister Dražen Opalić said the government was offering a 2% base pay rise in the second half of the year but that the unions wanted "a little more ambitious" pay rise this year.

"The government took note of that and we agreed to resume the talks next week, and the government will take a position on the demands of the public and government employee unions," he said.

In previous negotiations, public employee unions requested an 8% base pay rise. Vilim Ribić of the Independent Science and Higher Education Union criticised the government for "saying that it doesn't have the money although, according to all indicators, it does."

Next year Croatia is expected to be the second fastest growing economy in Europe, GDP has risen by 10.5%, inflation was 4.6% last year and is expected to be 4% next year, he said, adding that all indicators point to the need for a stronger intervention by the government.

We heard the same story that there was no money for public and government employees during the 2008-15 financial crisis, then during the euro crisis and then during the pandemic crisis, Ribić said.

We are always hearing the same story, even now when there is money and everything is  changing, he added.

Monday, 30 August 2021

SSSH: Collective Deals Enable Greatest Number of Additional Days to Annual Leave

ZAGREB, 30 Aug 2021 - The SSSH union federation warned on Monday that the analysis by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has indicated that Croatia workers, similar to those in Germany, benefit from collective bargaining most when it comes to annual leave.

"The ETUC analysis shows that Croatian and German workers benefit the most from collective bargaining when it comes to the length of annual leave, or the number of additional days of paid leave. In working units where national and branch collective agreements are applied, Croatian and German workers have an average of ten days more annual leave than the legal minimum," the union said in a press release.

The union underlined that workers covered by a collective agreement on average have 24.5 days of annual leave compared to  21.5 days for workers without collective agreements.

Collective agreements only applied in public sector, construction and partially in tourism

SSSH leader Mladen Novosel said the ETUC analysis only covered some sectors such as the public sector, and construction and partially tourism in the private sector.

The unions are intensively working on reviving collective bargaining in other sectors and expect the government to recognise the benefits of collective bargaining for society. 

The ETUC and SSSH called on national governments and EU institutions to ensure all workers benefit from collective bargaining and warned that the number of workers covered by collective bargaining has been falling since 2000.

"The European Parliament will mull over a draft directive this autumn related to the minimum wage which foresees that all member states where workers' coverage with collective bargaining is less than 70%, should prepare a national action plan to help achieve that level of coverage," the press release said.

Deputy ETUC secretary-general Esther Lynch underscores that the EU has to be more resolute and efficient so that all workers can exercise the right of collective bargaining.

For more on politics, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Agreement Reached Between Govt, Unions and Protesting Orljava Workers

ZAGREB, 30 June, 2021 - An agreement was reached on Wednesday between two trade unions, workers of the Požega-based Orljava company and the government on three monthly wages in arrears to be paid and on efforts to be made to find a new strategic partner for this clothes company.

Construction and State Assets Minister Darko Horvat received the workers after they held a protest rally outside Government House on Wednesday, demanding talks with the government's representatives.

After the meeting Horvat said that there was no need for the protest to have been held because the government had already taken certain steps in reference to the fate of the Orljava company.

"The government is not running from its obligations. Workers will get their three outstanding salaries in accordance with the law. I promised them that they would get their pay in the next 10 days," Horvat told reporters in Government House.

Horvat: We insist on finding a strategic partner for Orljava

He said that the government is not  thinking of liquidating the company but is insisting on finding a strategic partner. We think that there is no other way out. We have launched very intensive talks with Hemco from Đakovo, he said.

Hemco is specialised inn manufacturing protective clothes.

"At the moment, all the conditions that the government has set for Hemco have not been met for it to take over Orljava, until we negotiate the final details as there is still one small uncertainty," said Horvat.

He announced that a hearing has been set for Friday when Orljava will be assigned with a trustee.

Union leader Tomislav Kiš said that they found common ground with the government and established common stances, objectives and wishes.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.


Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Task Force For New Labour Act Convenes For First Time

ZAGREB, 23 June, 2021 - The first meeting of a task force to prepare a new Labour Act was held on Wednesday and social partners said that it was conducted peacefully without any complex issues and that it is expected that the law, which will more clearly define "remote work," among other things, should go into force mid-next year.

After months of consultation, it has been decided that a new Labour Act will be prepared, one that is appropriate to contemporary circumstances, state-secretary in the Labour Ministry Dragan Jelić said.

The act needs to introduce novelties that emerged during the pandemic, such as remote work and working from home, said Jelić.

The task force consists of the government's social partners, employers and the unions, and it is expected that a first draft bill will be completed by the year's end.

As for remote work and work from home, the new law will define protection, obligations by employers and employees, and the necessity for mutual approval, said Jelić.

Remote work has to be based on mutual agreement

"The current Labour Act defines the possibility of remote work, many have used that. Some have signed an annex to their contract, some haven't. There were some disputes over the cost of working from home. However, I believe that we will resolve those matters in a satisfactory way," said Jelić.

President of the Independent Croatian Trade Unions Krešimir Sever expects answers to many issues to be reached through negotiation. "Today we did not discuss any of those issues, just the introduction to the Labour Act," said Sever.

The unions will demand that fixed-term contracts be reduced as one-quarter of Croatia's employees work that way. He added that the unions are categorically opposed to extending working life.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Page 1 of 2