ZAGREB, November 26, 2018 – Negotiations between the government and public sector unions on a base pay increase resumed on Monday, with unionist Stjepan Topolnjak saying before the meeting at the Labour Ministry they expected from the government a decent offer which would not be lower than the unions’ minimum demands.
Asked by reporters if the unions would agree to the payment of an increased base pay in two installments, Topolnjak said they would. We realise the government can’t offer more as of January 1, so we would agree to a 3% rise as of January 1 and to another rise, another 3% minimum, as of July 1, he added.
Asked about preparations for a strike, he said they were under way but that nothing would be said publicly until after the negotiations.
Another unionist, Branimir Mihalinec, said they expected the government’s final offer and that, if the union demands were fully or partly adopted, the matter would be left to union bodies to consider and endorse.
Finance Minister Zdravko Marić is attending the meeting, as requested by the unions.
Labour Minister and representatives of public sector unions began negotiations last Thursday, saying after the meeting they would reconvene today.
The unions demand a 5.8% base pay rise in 2019 but the government is offering 3%, saying it is the maximum it can do under the budget. The unions have turned this down, announcing a strike in all public services as of November 28 and from then on every week until their demands are met.
After the meeting on Monday, Labour and Pension System Minister Marko Pavić said that the final negotiating round would be held on Tuesday morning, while the president of a school employees’ union, Branimir Mihalinec, said that the unions would advise their employers of a strike that is to be held on Wednesday.
The conciliation process is unfolding in good faith. However, in accordance with the law we cannot release any details to the public and more will be known tomorrow, Pavić told reporters after the meeting.
Asked whether that meant that an agreement was not achieved, Pavić said that it was agreed to continue the conciliation process early Tuesday morning.
Asked what will happen with the strike announced for Wednesday, considering that strikes have to be announced 48 hours earlier, Mihalinec said that following today’s meeting the unions would advise employers of the strike set for Wednesday.
That strike can be stopped only if we come to a satisfactory agreement tomorrow, Mihalinec underscored. Asked whether that meant that they did not believe an agreement would be reached, Mihalinec said that it was necessary to undertake all the necessary steps so that the strike can be lawful and that is exactly what they are doing.
We accepted the government’s proposal to try and resolve the dispute tomorrow. We have time for consultations and I believe that tomorrow we will have a final answer, he said, adding that he could not go into any detail.
“The strike is planned for Wednesday, 28 November. The next one, if we don’t reach an agreement in the meantime, is scheduled for December 4 and then December 13 and so on until we reach a satisfactory agreement or agreement on the wage policy in the public sector,” Mihalinec said.
Asked whether his impressions were a little more positive following today’s meeting compared to last week, Mihalinec said that it is necessary to always think positive and to work toward reaching a compromise and a solution that could at least temporarily satisfy everyone.
Asked whether the fact that Finance Minister Zdravko Marić came to today’s meeting was a step in that direction, Mihalinec said that the finance minister has participated in the conciliation process from the start. With regard to the upcoming consultations, Mihalinec believes that the government is taking the current situation seriously.
Public sector unions are seeking a 5.8% base pay rise next year, yet the government has offered an increase of 3%, claiming that’s the most the budget can afford.
Speculation emerged during the conciliation process that wages could increase a little more but in two phases. The unions have confirmed that they would agree to a 3% increase of the base pay as of January 1 and an additional 3% as of July 1.
For more on Croatia’s public sector, click here.