Health Minister Milan Kujundzic presented an offer to union representatives during negotiation talks held on Tuesday, proposing a seven percent wage increase which had already been initialled when a collective agreement was signed late July however the government then did not agree to implement the agreement.
"In a way an agreement has been reached. The government has offered something we had already initialled and the minister said that he cannot go above that," the president of health and social welfare workers' union Stjepan Topolnjak said.
Unions not satisfied but expect agreement will be accepted
That proposal will be put to the inner cabinet on Wednesday and the government meeting on Thursday and unions expect that the agreement of the 7% wage increase will be accepted.
However, the unions too need to agree on whether they will accept the increase offered considering that in the meantime the unions demanded an increase of 10% or more.
"I cannot say that we are satisfied. We expected more now considering that the government has managed to save some money since 1 August but that is why we are insisting that the 7% increase be applied as of 1 September and not as had been said previously, 3% as of 1 August and 4% as of 1 October," Topolnjak added.
The head of the nurses' union Anica Prasnjak too believes that union members won't be satisfied. "This a compromise of all comprises, the people aren't satisfied, they demanded and expected 20%," she said adding that negotiations on the base wage and basic collective agreement are yet to follow "so everything is still open."
She added that she is not certain that the increase offered will keep health workers in Croatia but "maybe this can be a trace of hope that we are moving from a standstill so that we are not 'surpassed' by Bulgaria and Romania."
The government and union negotiations teams will meet again on Friday to confirm amendments to the collective agreement which will secure the 7% wage increase.
If however, the government does not approve the proposal, Topolnjak said that unions have no other option than to go on strike.
Minister Kujundzic told reporters that "we are generally on track with what was agreed to in July," and expressed confidence that "somehow understanding and the funds would be found."
Seven percent means HRK 400 million from the budget a year
The seven percent wage increase would mean about HRK 400 million a year and it is not certain yet whether this will be put to the government this Thursday or next week, he said
"That seven percent earmarked for responsibility and complexity of tasks, exposure to risk, infection and radiation and it does not fit into the union scheme of equilibrium that is visible in other occupations," said Kujundzic.
He believes that there is no way the health system is being jeopardised and that it is in fact a stable and quality system, burdened with hardships that can also be seen in other countries and that needs to be dealt with jointly.
With reference to demands by the physicians' union for a special professional collective agreement, Kujundzic explained that several models existed and one of those is to amend legislation on wages.