ZAGREB, September 5, 2019 – Labour and Pension System Minister Josip Aladrović said on Thursday the government advocated a horizontal pay rise for everyone and not just some groups.
Speaking to the press before a cabinet meeting, he said there had been several horizontal corrections, with a 11.5% pay rise for everyone over the past two years. “We expect, with a further pay rise and positive economic trends, to correct (wages) for everyone, not just some selected groups.”
As for teachers’ demands for higher wages, Aladrović said he would hear their demands today and see if any talks were necessary given that branch collective agreements were signed last year and the demands were not related to collective negotiations.
Commenting on healthcare workers’ demands for higher wages, he said their branch collective agreement expired on October 31. “We will do our best to arrive at a solution. I think we are close to a solution,” he said, adding that what had been initialled would cost 395 million kuna.
Speaking of a national pension, the minister said it would be fully implemented in 2021 and that the legislative framework would be ready by autumn 2020. He said the national pension “will become an element within the pension and welfare systems” and that it was too early to say how much it would cost the state.
There is a group of 53,000 people who will be over 65 in 2021 and have no income, he added.
Education Minister Blaženka Divjak, who approved teacher unions’ demands for a 6% wage index increase, before today’s cabinet meeting said that it was necessary to open a dialogue between the government and unions.
She said investing in education was an investment, not an expense, adding that the teachers’ wage index lagged behind the wage index of other public sector workers and that this “injustice” has to be resolved.
About 1,500 teachers are protesting today outside Government House, demanding a 6% wage index increase.
Finance Minister Zdravko Marić on Thursday said that funds for additional demands by health and education unions had not been foreseen in the sate budget and called for patience until negotiations were concluded.
“We will be asking for some savings to be made during the year on the expenditure side of the state budget in order to secure those funds. There are some ministries that do not have the funds to cover even the 3% base wage increase, while the unions’ additional demands weren’t planned,” Marić said ahead of the cabinet meeting on Thursday.
He added that the health sector was a current topic because the collective agreement had expired. “As of 1 September, the base wage for all public servants was increased by 2%. These are all matters that we are taking into account so that employees can be satisfied,” he said, adding that the government was “working so that we all as citizens and taxpayers have a better and efficient service.”
He underscored that there are some sections of public administration that have to be re-analysed but “we all need to work on creating positive pressure and a positive environment” and to head in that direction.
Reporters asked if that means that workers in the education sector were the last on the list for their base wage to increase. “No, if anything needs to be changed, we have to advocate a horizontal approach because we cannot neglect any sector of the state administration but look at everything together. No one is first or last,” he explained.
He added that negotiations and talks were being held with all sections of state public administration regarding the base wage.
There is no cause for panic but we have to be responsible toward public finances, Marić said.
He added that the base wage had increased by 11% over the past three years and that the government is prepared for further talks.
Asked whether a horizontal wage increase would prevent the strikes that have been announced, Marić said that that decision was not up to him and added that negotiations with the health sector were continuing.
He informed reporters that the three percent base wage increase would cost the government 900 million kuna annually, while an additional 2% would cost an additional 600 million kuna. Anything else above that is a topic for talks and analysis, he added.
More news about the public sector can be found in the Business section.