The first meeting between the government and unions concerning a pay rise in the public sector was conducted on Monday and a member of the unions' negotiation team, Branimir Mihalinec, said after the meeting that an agreement had been reached to continue the negotiations on April 1 and that a negotiation protocol would be prepared in the meantime.
Both sides undoubtedly consider the agreement (on the pay increase) to be very important and that they will endeavour to realise it together. We are aware that the government has a problem in implementing the agreement "all at once" and we are prepared to negotiate the dynamics of its implementation, Mihalinec said after the first round of negotiations.
Public sector unions are demanding a six percent pay increase, following GDP growth of 2% for two consecutive quarters, as provided for under a 2009 agreement that took effect on January 1.
Asked whether they expected a part of the pay rise this year already, Mihalinec said that they had agreed that the statement "there is no money" was not a serious negotiation position. When, how much and under which conditions there will be money to realise the agreement should be clearly defined. We expect Croatia to move forward and that this year there will certainly be money to start realising the agreement, he said.
If we manage to reach an agreement with the government, then that will be its obligation, accepted consciously, and then a budget revision will be defined so that the signed obligations are met. That is in fact what we expect, Mihalinec said in response to claims that the budget does not foresee the HRK 1.8 billion required to cover the cost of the pay increase.
Asked whether the negotiations would deal with amendments to collective agreements, Christmas bonuses, holiday pay and other benefits, Mihalinec said that currently representatives of eight unions that were signatories to the agreement were negotiating basic wages and that everything else would be negotiated with the unions that had signed the basic collective agreement.
Asked whether he was happy with the meeting, Mihalinec said that unions would have been happy had steps been taken to implement the agreement as of January 1, however, they were aware of the current situation and had agreed to negotiate possible schedules that would be precisely defined and realised.