Salary growth in Croatia's public sector lags behind not only more developed European countries but comparable ones as well, and the Croatian government is avoiding talks on salary growth, a round table heard in Zagreb on Monday.
The introduction of the euro will limit growth and negotiators' starting positions, with the government trying to ignore the relatively favourable 3% GDP growth and opting for a tax reform favouring capital and not citizens' standard, heard the round table, organised by a science and higher education union which announced that it would insist on higher wages.
The government has no wage policy and wages in the public sector are 18% lower than in the private sector, so unions will have to clash with the government to improve the status of their members, unionist Igor Radeka said.
Zeljko Lovrincevic of the Zagreb Institute of Economics said preparations for introducing the euro and banks' pressure to relax the fiscal discipline would be accompanied by a growth reduction and an economic slowdown.
He said the government's tax reform freed capital and reduced the possibility to raise the public sector's standard, which he called a bad policy. He said Croatia must introduce a tax on consumption and property, not on labour.
Unionist Branimir Mihalinec said it was necessary to change the wage index so as to equate education and other public services.
Branimir Strukelj, vice president of the European Trade Union Committee for Education and president of Slovenia's confederation of public sector unions, said the neoliberal policy was on the defensive and that public services such as education and healthcare were no longer seen as parasites in public discourse but as useful services.
He voiced hope that Slovenia would continue to reduce labour taxes and burden capital. He said it had been announced that profit tax would be raised from 19 to 22%, while in France it was 30%.
The organisers of the round table cited Eurostat figures showing that in 2018 the annual net pay of a single person with an average salary was €9,067 in Croatia, €31,663 in Austria, €13,000 in Slovenia, between €8,500 and 9,000 in Latvia, Lithuania and Hungary, and between €5,500 and 5,900 in Romania and Bulgaria.
Salaries in Croatia's public sector lag behind those in the business sector. In some other post-transition countries, due to the drain of people from key sectors such as healthcare and education, public sector salaries grow faster than in the business sector.
Croatia's education and healthcare workers are currently demanding higher wages. The government has been delaying negotiations on the base pay of all public workers since May.
In July, the European Commission raised the forecast of Croatia's real growth from 2.6 to 3.1%. According to the organisers, there are economic circumstances that can be used to raise salaries, but it is a matter of political choice.