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.