Teachers' unions and government fail to reach agreement, negotiations continue

Teachers' unions and government fail to reach agreement, negotiations continue

Teachers' unions and government fail to reach agreement, negotiations continue Izvor: N1

The teachers' unions and the government on Monday failed to reach agreement on the demands by striking teachers, with negotiations set to continue on Tuesday.

"We failed to reach an agreement and the negotiations will continue tomorrow," the leader of the Matica association of trade unions, Vilim Ribic, told the press late on Monday after a seven-hour meeting in the government offices.

The meeting was held after the unions had organised a massive rally in Zagreb’s main square at noon on Monday, at which thousands of teachers gathered to demand a 6.11 percent increase in their job complexity index, aiming to close the wage gap with other public services.

The unions had agreed not to reveal the details of the talks, Ribic said, while the government representative said the two sides were "close to a solution".

Teachers’ unions have been on strike for more than a month, initially on a rotating basis, meaning the strike was taking place every day in different counties, but a general strike began last Tuesday.

So far, all government offers were rejected, including a base wage increase of 6.12 percent as of next year on a 2+2+2 basis and an analysis of wages in the public sector to compare job complexity indices for employees in the primary, secondary, and tertiary education and science sector. The government had also offered a wage supplement of 12 percent in case the system of complexity indices was not regulated by July next year.

The head of the secondary school teachers' union, Branimir Mihalinec, also declined on Monday to talk about the government’s latest offer, or say if any progress had been made, but he did say that, if the talks were concluded on Tuesday, a referendum will be held among the striking teachers to determine whether the offer would be accepted or not.

The leader of the primary school teachers' union, Sanja Sprem, called the talks exhausting.

"There are several options on the table and tomorrow we will see what the possible solutions are. We did all we could to make sure the talks were constructive and conclusive," she said.

The chief negotiator from the government’s ranks, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic’s chief of staff Zvonimir Frka-Petesic, said that progress had been made and that the talks were "very constructive".

"I think we are close to a solution," he said. "We are absolutely aware of the injustice towards primary and secondary school teachers that has accumulated over the years and we want to remedy it. We are seeking the best solution. There are a lot of options on the table, but I cannot discuss them yet. It is very important to us that we arrive at a solution."

Earlier on Monday, Plenkovic's adviser on social issues, Zvonko Kusic of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, said in a public broadcaster HRT’s programme Otvoreno that the talks with the unions were "exhausting and complex, but also promising."

Kusic said the unions supported the proposal that job complexity indices should be revised over a certain period of time, since the process is complicated, and that wage supplements should be revised in the meantime to compensate for inadequate indices.

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