Private and public sector workers: It's time for OUR recovery - Croatia needs a pay rise and quality jobs
Zagreb, 2 March 2017 – Croatia has recovered from the crisis; economy and profits are growing, therefore private and public sector workers are demanding: It's time for OUR recovery – Croatia needs a pay rise and quality jobs! That was a message of today's press conference held at the UATUC headquarters by the Union of Autonomous Trade Unions of Croatia (UATUC) and Association of Croatian Trade Unions (Matica), to announce the Labour Day demonstrations in Slavonski Brod, as a central activity of the joint initaitive for higher wages and quality jobs, and a part of the broader European ETUC campaign.
Slavonia, together with Dalmatia and Lika, is a region of Croatia with highest unemployment, low levels of activity, especially among the youth, and problems of emmigration. This is why trade unions are organizing their Labour Day protests in Slavonia.
Namely, the data show that the Croatian economy has recovered; GDP is at the highest levels in the last nine years, however workers have not seen a pay rise in years.
Thus a real wage drop in Croatia in 2014, as compared to 2008 for workers with secondary education is -13.3%, i.e. -16.8% for workers with university degree, with the greatest drop in the construction industry, where the real wages have dropped by as much as 25.4% (for university degree workers).
- Croatia needs to promote collective bargaining culture and to raise wages, since more than 200,000 workers get the minimum wage or barely above the minimum and cannot live on that. Our aim is to have a country of rich people, and not a rich country of poor people and we will do everything to reverse that trend, said Mladen Novosel, UATUC president explaining the reasons for the initative.
- Wages need to be increased to enable people to have future. Everyone who is neglecting wage growth harms the national interests, warned Vilim Ribić, Matica's president.
Press conference was addressed by two young representatives as well – Ivan Juričević, president of the UATUC Youth Section and Lucija Barjašić Špiler, an expert of MHS.
Ivan Juričević recalled of the data of the European Commission and the Vienna Institute which show that low wages are a primary reason why people leave Croatia, followed by poor working conditions and unemployment. He also warned of growing precarisation of employment relations and increasing abuse of fixed-term work. This especially affects young people: in 2015 more than 50% of young people were employed on fixed-term contracts, and almost 90% of the newly-employed are employed on the fixed-term contracts, although the Labour Code says this form of contract is an exception. A special problem for young people is a lack of access to quality and financially accessibly housing. All this forces young people to leave Croatia. Our time has come, it is our time to see a pay rise, to see improved living standard for the young people and to be offered a chance to remain in Croatia, not to be forced to leave and to watch Croatia decline.
Lucija Barjašić Špiler on the other hand criticised an active labour market policy measure of vocational training without employment relationship:
- This measure is a bone of contention of all the policies of health employment and normal labour market. Measure of vocational training is free for employers! Employers do participate in it. It slashes wages and the value of work. Although the minister of labour had all the findings of evaluations and experts' opinions, and instead of abolishing the measure, he extended it even further and enabled its application to all young people finishing secondary education and to all those in higher education. Furthermore, instead of encouraging dual education and traineeship, they encourage free labour of young people who have already acquired a qualification. We are endemic in this respect in Europe. What are we doing? We tell to a person who has graduated from an university and owns a piece of pape that proves he/she has certaing skills and knowledge that no, you don't have knowledge and skills and know you will work for the minimum wage for the next year or tow, and after that you either get a job, or you will not. If minister's real intention was to boost the labour market, he should have reinstalled the traineeship. Not so long ago, there was a logical thing. You enter the labour market as a trainee, as a starter, you have some 70% of the wage for that job, of a colleage with a year of service and you can normally develop at that job. People in this programme of vocational training are statistically not counted as employed, but statistically they are taken off the unemployment list. And then the government tells the European Commission: Croatia is making an excellent progress, we are lowering umeployment rate, and not saying a work about this being only a technical manoeuvre, and not an actual decrease of unemployment.
President Novosel warned of this measure being a pressure to lower wages and value of work, but also they need to paint a rosy picture to win the local elections more easily.