Labour and Pension System Minister Josip Aladrovic said on Wednesday that the government had given its final offer to striking teachers' unions and that if the offer was accepted, the government would cover the cost of the strike for the period until November 15, adding he believed the strike should end.
Speaking to reporters after negotiations with the teachers' unions, Aladrovic said that they were negotiating a wage increase of 6 percent through the branch collective agreement and that the government had presented clear figures and data as to what that would mean for the average wage of primary and secondary school teachers.
"If this offer is accepted, that will mean a wage increase of between 1,300 and 1,600 kuna. We also presented our obligation to raise the base wage by 2 percent and 6 percent for all primary and secondary school teachers. As for demands by the sector of higher education, for non-teaching staff and certain groups of teaching staff, we put that, too, in the agreement that was offered," he said.
If the proposed agreement is accepted, the government will cover the cost of the strike for the period until November 15, Aladrovic said, adding that he believed the offer made the strike unnecessary.
He said that he was speaking about a wage supplement increase and that "it makes no difference if a wage supplement increase or a job complexity index increase is offered."
"Achieving the increase is actually only a technical matter. What we (originally) offered was a job complexity index increase, but considering the legal document to which we can commit ourselves, which is (the branch collective) agreement, we envisaged a wage supplement increase in the agreement," he said.
Asked why then the government would not meet the unions halfway and accept what they were asking for, the minister said that this was about "the legal form while in the financial sense, the matter is identical."
"... should there be a mathematical difference between the 2% wage supplement increase and the 2% job complexity index increase, we are willing to meet the unions halfway in that regard," said the minister.
Gov't can no longer afford to pay striking teachers
The minister said that the strike should be ended because the government could no longer afford it.
"We will see what happens if the strike continues... We are offering what is in line with the fiscal and financial capacity. If the strike continues, it will continue until we reach an agreement," he said, adding that the government did not see any willingness among union leaders to make any concessions.
"They continue to insist on their demand and we can no longer negotiate that way," he said, when asked if this was the final government offer.
He said that it was not true the government had offered less than a week ago, as claimed by union leaders, and that the latest government offer included a copy of an agreement the government was willing to sign immediately and which would go into force immediately.
Unions reject gov't offer, strike to continue
Education-sector unions said the government's latest offer was even lower than what they had been offered last week, adding that the teachers' strike would continue and that further negotiations were suspended until further notice.
"This offer is lower than the one that was put to a referendum and that teachers are resolutely rejecting. We are disappointed. Croatia does not deserve a government like this," union leader Branimir Mihalinec said after today's talks.