On Friday 25 September 2015, a major strike period was kicked off in Croatia’s education sector. The ETUCE member organisations CTU, ITUWEC and IURHEEC representing primary school, secondary school and higher education sector workers joined in the “Vertical Merger of Education Trade Unions”. Together, they launched a protest action which might not end before the government has not positively responded to their strong request.

The current problems have started last year in August when a collective agreement was signed between the Croatian government and the health care sector unions. Those had negotiated a flat 4% salary increase in return for dropping a previous pay supplement provided in different time (4-8-10%). This peculiar supplement had been inserted in all the public sector agreements starting from 2003 but the government tried to delete it, allegedly to promote austerity measures and to get out of the economic crisis. To withhold this agreement, the government also promulgated new laws despite of the collective agreements that it was negotiating with different other sectoral trade unions.

Primary and secondary school trade unions negotiated an agreement according to which the education employers’ salaries would have also improved as soon as any other public service sector had received the 4-8-10% supplement. However, last month the government signed an agreement with the heath care sector providing a different salary increase that would have prevented them from paying the same increase to all the public sector. The education sector trade unions tried to join the negotiations but were kept out.

Apparently, the education unions were explained that the state budget for 2015 would not foresee such increase when at the time, the Minister of Finance stated publicly that the budget had an unexpected surplus of some 400 mil € during the first seven months of 2015. While the government should be well aware of the fact that workers with a university degree employed in the education sector are already, on average, the lowest paid of all the industries in Croatia, it refuses to make a solid commitment to the education sector. The dispute led now to concrete demands from the trade unions which has been backed for days by the strike action. „This strike was thrust upon us by the actions of the government but we will not back down because our demands are just. The prime minister has publicly stated that education would be first in line once the recession ends. We believe it is time for him to honor his promise!“,  concluded Vilim Ribic, ITUWEC President.

ETUCE will keep monitoring the developments in the Croatian education sector.