A Week in Croatian Politics – Serbia, Albania, Wages and Protests – fri

Lauren Simmonds

May the 5th, 2023 – This week in Croatian politics, we’ve had a visit from the Serbian Prime Minister and from the Albanian President, a desire for a new Labour Law with more flexibility, protests from healthcare staff and non-healthcare staff employed in hospitals for more recognition (and more money) for their work, and more.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic visits Zagreb

As Index reports, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic recently received Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic at Banski dvori, as HRT reported. At the aforementioned cabinet meeting, the Croatian Prime Minister was accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Anja Simpraga, while the Serbian Prime Minister was accompanied by Minister for Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue Tomislav Zigmanov. The meeting was then followed by the fourth Great Assembly, organised by the Serbian National Council in Zagreb.

The SNV Grand Assembly gathered together numerous elected councilors and representatives of the Serbian national minority in Croatia from over 150 municipalities, cities and counties, over a thousand and a half of them to be more precise. In addition, the representatives of all relevant organisations of the Serbian community in Croatia and minority and human rights protection institutions were also present.

Brnabic spoke of the ”deep wounds” left after the Homeland War and owing to historically tense Croatian-Serbian relations. She stated that relations between the two countries – one of which is an EU member state, a Eurozone country and part of the Schengen zone – and one which isn’t any of the above, continue to be burdened by a multitude of difficult questions and a lack of trust. Despite that, significant progress is going to be made in that regard this year, according to her. 

Croatian Employers want Labour Law amendments and sit down to talk with Labour Minister Marin Piletic

The issues surrounding the increasing number of foreign (non-EU) workers arriving in Croatia coupled with Croatia’s ongoing problems with a demographic crisis, an aging population and the mentality of not wanting to work has seen members of the Croatian Employers’ Association (HUP) sit down with the labour minister.

Igor Skrgatic of HUP has clearly stated that previous amendments to the Labour Law have been unsatisfactory to employers and that much more flexibility is needed, as is a proper immigration strategy from MUP. Many deem the influx of foreign workers from non EU countries to be harmful to the Croatian workforce who have chosen to remain in the country, and that something needs to be done to prevent problems from spiralling out of control. More can be read about the meeting with Minister Marin Piletic here.

Croatian healthcare professionals protest once again, this time citing their dissatisfaction with Health Minister Vili Beros and their salaries

It hasn’t been long since the last protest of healthcare professionals, primarily doctors, who stated their lack of satisfaction with current working conditions, salaries and expectations. Health Minister Vili Beros made a rather scandalous statement which totally missed the mark by claiming that ”most people protesting earn more than he does”. The fact that the Croatian healthcare system is in crisis is far from new information to anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock, and most doctors protesting are just as concerned with the fact that patients are having to suffer these shortcomings just as much as they are.

Healthcare professionals and other employees from Dubrava Hospital (Zagreb) are the latest to protest, this time turning most of their attention on Beros himself, and looking more deeply at the state of wages.

The half-hour protest held on Wednesday demanded that the coefficients for medical workers in the public healthcare system who aren’t doctors be increased by 10 percent.

“We’d like to express ourdissatisfaction with the behavioyr of Minister Vili Beros and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic towards those employees who aren’t covered by the government decree. We’re asking for a minimum 10 percent increase in the coefficients for all other healthcare workers who aren’t doctors,” said the president of the Independent Union of Health and Social Welfare of Croatia, Stjepan Topolnjak. He also stated that non-healthcare personnel in the system, from administrative workers to kitchen staff deserve “much higher wages than they currently take home for doing their jobs”.

The protest in front of Dubrava Hospital on Wednesday was part of a wave of protests organised by the Croatian Professional Union of Nurses and Technicians (HSSMS-MT) and SSZSSH. The current level of dissatisfaction is caused by unequal increases in the coefficients in the healthcare system, Ivana Suton from the nurses’ union pointed out, adding that last week the government increased the coefficient for doctors by 10 percent, while for others it was increased by just 3 to 5.4 percent.

“We consider an increase in the coefficient of 3 to 5 percent to be degrading,” Suton pointed out. She stated that nurses, of whom there are more than 30,000 in the Croatian healthcare system, make up 47 percent of the total number of healthcare staff. “The work and contribution of nurses and technicians continues to go unrecognised, and it’s unacceptable for nurses and technicians when differences in the healthcare system like this are created,” she said. Ana Cudina also addressed the crowd present and said that healthcare and non-healthcare personnel are both seeking dignity and equality.

“The unions have been warning about deficiencies in the healthcare system for years now, they’ve demanded an increase in wages for all employees, appropriate working conditions for all, and above all 0 respect for the collective agreement,” she told the crowd, adding that one group cannot be in a more favourable position than the others.

Another protest of healthcare (not doctors) and non healthcare workers has been announced for May the 12th, 2023.

Plenkovic claims that his government’s aim is to increase wages

PM Andrej Plenkovic recently reiterated that the goal of the announced tax reform is tax relief for the most vulnerable and an increase in peoples’ net salaries. “The idea is to financially relieve the most vulnerable among us, those who have the lowest salaries, and in this way we’ll also increase the net salaries people take home with them,” Plenkovic said after the recent session of the wider HDZ Presidency.

Once the package is completed, the first reading in parliament will take place before the summer break, and the second reading will take place in autumn in order for it all to come into effect on January the 1st, 2024, he announced. He noted that the government relieved both the public and the economy in several rounds of tax reforms by more than 11 billion kuna, as well as that the revenues of counties, cities and municipalities have increased by a total of 11 billion kuna since 2017.

He also emphasised the drop in the inflation rate, the reduction of the share of public debt in GDP, the upward revision of growth projections for this year, the surplus in the state budget for 2022, the maintenance of the investment credit rating, the growth of average wages to 1,100 euros net, and so on.

In response to the claim from the opposition that it was all a mere a pre-election move, Plenkovic replied that their entire rhetoric has been reduced to this for a year. “That theory is deeply ridiculous, especially when you see the consistency of our policies in terms of tax relief and in strengthening the fiscal and functional decentralisation of local self-government units,” he said, adding that this narrative simply does not hold water.

At the beginning of June, Plenkovic has announced a large meeting with Croatian county prefects and expressed his belief that in the end they will all support legal changes that will enable higher salaries.

“It’s important for us that the net salary increases, that’s our goal,” Plenkovic said.

“We want to reduce the workload and raise average wages. They’ve grown by 48 percent since back in 2016, so we’ll have a dialogue, we’ll hold a meeting with the county prefects. It will take place at the beginning of June. Everything will be specified and I believe that in the end everyone will support the legal changes that will provide people with higher wages,” Plenkovic said.

The Albanian president pays a visit to Croatia

President Zoran Milanovic and his wife Sanja Music Milanovic recently welcomed the President of Albania Bajram Begaj and his wife Armanda Begaj to Zagreb.

For this occasion, the first lady of Croatia chose a fashion combination in the colours of the Albanian flag – a red shirt and jacket and black trousers, while Armanda arrived in Zagreb in a dark blue suit.

After meeting at Pantovcak, Sanja and Armanda visited the Oton Ivekovic exhibition, a retrospective at the Klovicevi dvori gallery with the professional guidance of the author of the exhibition. There, the first ladies readily posed for photographers.

Otherwise, Zoran Milanovic emphasised that the friendship between Croatia and Albania is “now a deeply established fact”, while Begaj said that the relations between Albanians and Croats are “traditionally of high quality and friendly” and at a “historical maximum”.


For more on Croatian politics, make sure to keep up with our dedicated section. A dedicated Week in Croatian Politics article is also published every Friday.


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