Deputy Prime Minister Bozo Petrov of the Bridge party said on Monday after the first round of talks with public-sector unions on a six-percent pay rise that he was sure that everyone would be in a "win-win" situation at the end of the negotiating process.
Thanking union representatives for their understanding, Petrov told reporters that he was pleased the government had come across people who would help the cabinet to complete the reform package within the year.
Asked whether there would be money to implement the agreement on a six percent pay increase, following GDP growth of 2% for two consecutive quarters, Petrov said that that would be one of the points that would be negotiated concerning the agreement that had been signed several years ago.
"The government's obligations exists and there is the real situation we are faced with today and I believe that union representatives have an understanding for that. We will agree to when that agreement will be activated, however, I do not wish to draw any conclusions at the moment. I believe that it is proper to talk and come up with a conclusion together," Petrov said.
We know that we haven't planned additional funds to pay out this obligations in this budget and that is why we have said that there is no money, however, we wish to be fair to the unions because they were fair and waited for us to agree when we will be able to activate the agreement, the Deputy PM added.
Responding to reporters' comments that funds haven't been foreseen in plans for the following two years. Petrov said that projections were made based on figures for 2016. Asked whether a simulation of what that amount might be on an annual level, he said that that was something to be discussed during the negotiations.
"We will base our estimates on the agreement of six percent of the base wage and that will be the main topic of negotiations over the period to come and I believe that we will discuss even more," Petrov said, adding that other topics like wage parity will be incorporated in the negotiation protocol that the government will propose to unions.
He said that by the next round of negotiations on April 1, the government would have preliminary calculations and will be able to discuss union demands more concretely.
Asked whether he was afraid of court complaints, Petrov said that there should be no reason for them considering the way negotiations were being conducted. Union mistrust is justified considering that they were tricked before but on the other hand, the situation in reality sometimes dictates some matters so I hope that we will come to an agreement, he said.
Asked to comment on the current dispute between Interior Minister Vlaho Orepic (Bridge) and First Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko (Croatian Democratic Union - HDZ) about Karamarko's demands for personnel replacements in the ministry, Petrov said that the party firmly supports Minister Orepic. He added that he thought it was inappropriate to talk about replacements in the police with such "fanfare."