School unions on Monday reported of a high response to the ongoing teachers' strike in five counties, adding that the strike in primary and secondary schools would continue in three counties on Tuesday while the leader of the Croatian Association of Trade Unions (MHS), Vilim Ribic, said that institutions of higher education might join the strike soon.
"The strike will continue on Tuesday in Osijek-Baranja, Istria and Sibenik-Knin counties. Those are three large counties and we expect just as high a response as today," the leader of the secondary school employees' union (NSZSSH), Branimir Mihalinec, told a press conference, noting that 86% of employees in primary schools and around 75% of secondary school employees were on strike today.
Union leaders described at the press conference how workers' indices in the education sector had changed since the 2000 - 2004 government, underscoring and that they had held the same presentation at the Ministry of Science and Education in March, calling for the job complexity index to be increased by 6.11%.
"We have concluded that it is necessary to define a reference index in both systems for all those employed in the education process. It is necessary to equate the job complexity index for everyone because job complexity is the same for everyone and there shouldn't be any differences," Mihalinec said.
The unions underlined that Education Minister Blazenka Divjak had accepted their arguments back in March, however, after that the government proposed on several occasions that the index be increased only for administrative staff such as secretaries and for teachers in special rehabilitation institutions.
Mihalinec commented on Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic's message that "either teachers' wages will be increased or this government will no longer exist," saying that unions were pleased when their demands were supported and believed that that kind of political pressure could help resolve the dispute.
He also commented on remarks that the strike had no legal grounds. "The strike is allowed because the law clearly states that employees are allowed to strike for their economic and social interests. If increasing the job complexity index isn't part of wages, then I don't know what is," Mihalinec explained.
Vilim Ribic of the MHS union said on Monday that the union of employees in institutions of higher education could soon join the strike if an agreement was not reached with the government.
"We said that it would be fair to give the government a chance to accept our demands. I don't believe in the fairness of the conciliation process too much, 48 hours is sufficient time for them to say what they think. If there is no response, then we will announce a strike on Wednesday," Ribic said.
He added that the budget surplus was sufficient for a wage increase for the entire public sector.