MHS trade union leader Vilim Ribic has expressed regret that government officials did not respond to a union invitation to attend talks at the MHS offices in Zagreb on Monday, while Deputy Prime Minister Bozo Petrov confirmed in a letter to trade unions that negotiations with them would continue on April 25.

Of representatives of six government ministries in charge of negotiations with six public sector unions, only an assistant to the culture minister arrived at the MHS offices for today's talks but he, too, returned after realising that he was the only government official at the talks. That means that there was no coordination in the government and that the Culture Ministry had not been informed that attendance by government officials at the talks with trade unions was not planned, Ribic told reporters.

MHS stands for the Independent Union of Science and Higher Education Sector Employees.

Ribic said that unions were responsible and dealt with problems arising from an agreement envisaging a six-percent increase in the basic salary in public and state services, expressing readiness for compromise and social dialogue.

The public sector unions are demanding the pay increase, following GDP growth of 2% for two consecutive quarters, as provided for under a 2009 agreement that took effect on January 1.

This shows that unions want to solve the problem while the government is dealing with its internal relations and misunderstandings and is not aware of the gravity of the problem, Ribic said, recalling that more than a month had passed and the government had not made a protocol for negotiations with trade unions even though it had undertaken to make one, which prompted trade unions to make a negotiating protocol and forward it to the government.

As for Petrov's letter informing unions of the continuation of negotiations on April 25, Ribic said that the letter was full of good intentions and abstract language about the importance of social dialogue, noting that unions wanted deeds rather than words.

Asked if he still expected Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic to attend the talks, Ribic said unions believed Oreskovic's presence at a meeting with unions would be very important and that by doing so Oreskovic could gain insight into the complexity of the problem since unions were not sure that government negotiators were aware of it.

He added that he believed the problem could be solved with three to four rounds of talks and that unions, which continued to insist on the pay rise, would settle "for a compromise solution" that would be good both for union members and for the state.

One should see how much the pay rise would affect GDP growth and public debt and see what is more important, Ribic said, adding that the problem required consultations with economic experts.

Asked how long unions were willing to wait before they started filing lawsuits over non-compliance with the agreement, Ribic said they would have to see if it paid to sue the state. I hope that we will not have to ask a court to check the legal validity of the agreement, he added.

The head of the Independent Union of Employees in Secondary Schools, Branimir Mihalinec, was hopeful that Oreskovic, Petrov and Finance Minister Zdravko Maric would start dealing with the problem.

There is no time for fruitless discussions and we believe the Prime Minister should put an end to them, said Mihalinec. 

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.