The government and public sector unions managed to come to an agreement on 2019 pay rises on Tuesday, in a last ditch attempt to avert the threat of a general strike already announced by unions for later this month.
“We successfully came to an agreement. We agreed that the base pay would be increased by 3 percent on January 1, and again by 2 percent on September 1,” Labour Minister, Marko Pavic, told reporters after meeting with leaders of eight public sector unions on Monday morning.
The unions had demanded a 5.8 percent increase in base pay in 2019, while the government had kept saying that a 3 percent rise the best it could offer. Eight unions in the public sector and a union of public administration employees all rejected the proposal as too low, and announced a strike of public services on Wednesday, November 28.
Last week, Finance Minister Zdravko Maric said that the government’s offer of 3 percent increase would cost some 900 million kuna (€121 million), while the unions’s demands of a nearly 6 percent increase would come in at about 1.75 billion kuna (€235 million) in the 2019 budget.
On Tuesday, Labour Minister Pavic that the deal agreed meant that the government would have to find another 150 million kuna (€20 million) on top of its original offer, which would be funded by spending cuts.
“The government offered the maximum it could, the unions asked for much more, but this is the best we could give them at this moment… The government will find some 150 million kuna in the budget through spending cuts for various ministries,” Pavic said, and added that later on Monday he would meet with the public administration union, who will be offered the same deal that the public sector unions received.
The base pay in the public sector is a legally mandated basic monthly wage used to calculate individual workers’ salaries, by multiplying the base amount with coefficients which depend on job description, work experience, and a number of other factors.
The base pay, which was cut by 6 percent in 2009 as part of austerity measures introduced by the goverment in the wake of an economic recession, concern most public services, which currently employ some 180,000 people, and another 60,000 employees working in public administration.
Leader of the secondary schools union, Branimir Mihalinec, said that the terms agreed on Tuesday would soon be formalised in an annex to their collective labour agreement.
“The unions did not reach this agreement in unison, but the majority was in favour of what the government offered. These eight unions agreed to cease all activities on preparing for a potential strike,” Mihalinec said, and added that the essential thing here is that the unions got a deal which is close enough to what they had demanded.
Leader of the teachers’ union, Sanja Sprem, said although they would side with the majority of unions who voted in favour of the government’s latest offer, unions of workers in education are opposed to the deal. Because of this, teachers at elementary and secondary schools will still go on an hour-long strike on Wednesday.
According to recent media reports, teachers are the least paid university educated category of professionals in Croatia, with their salaries today still lower on average than they were ten years ago, before the recession hit the country.