Is Government Leading Campaign against Union Referendum Initiative?

Total Croatia News

ZAGREB, May 2, 2019 – The GONG nongovernmental election monitoring organisation on Thursday called on the government to inform the public of the cost of its advertising campaign against trade unions’ initiative to collect signatures for a referendum petition against raising the state pension age.

The government is intimidating the general public with its estimates that the demands of the union campaign “67 is too much” will cost 45 billion kuna of budget money yet is using public money non-transparently in its counter-campaign, GONG says.

GONG welcomes the government’s having imposed stricter transparency rules on all referendum campaigns, including the union campaign, but considers it problematic that the government has not made public the cost of its counter-campaign.

GONG insists that the issue of financing referendums should be regulated as part of a new law on referendums and recalls that Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević has set up a task force to draw up the new law, which has not held any meeting yet.

Labour and Pension System Minister Marko Pavić on Thursday dismissed accusations that his ministry’s media campaign, which has coincided with an ongoing union campaign for a referendum against the statutory retirement age of 67, is directed against the referendum initiative, saying that the ministry campaign is part of continuous efforts to inform citizens.

“This is not an anti-referendum campaign; it is an ongoing campaign designed to inform citizens about the comprehensive pension reform. We did not use external agencies for the campaign, we paid 18,000 kuna plus VAT for the video and we will publish the cost of the campaign after it is completed,” Pavić told a news conference.

As for a calculation showing that a possible success of the union referendum campaign would cost the budget 45 billion kuna, Pavić said the calculation had been made by a team of experts. Even though it may seem high, it is realistic given the large number of pensioners, he said.

Pavić went on to say that trade unions and opposition parties used events commemorating International Workers’ Day on Wednesday to manipulate citizens. He also dismissed media claims that the rate of youth employment in Croatia had dropped and that the government’s active employment policy measures were not yielding results.

In the first two years of its term, the government invested 4.5 billion kuna in employment measures, and from March 2016 to March 2019, 96,058 jobs were created, he said, adding that in 2018, 38,287 more jobs had been created than the year before.

“The youth employment rate for the 15-29 age group has grown by 2.6%. According to the Croatian Pension Insurance Institute, the number of employed young persons has grown from 261,000 to 267,500, and the rate of employed persons, depending on the statistics, has increased between 2.45% and 2.6%,” said Pavić.

More news about the referendum campaign can be found in the Politics section.


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