Croatia doctors, nurses to get 7% wage hike; strike averted

ZAGREB, Sept 13 (Reuters) - The Croatian government and the major healthcare unions agreed on Friday an average 7% wage increase, averting a strike doctors and nurses threatened to stage in the coming weeks.

The agreement has been reached after a series of protests in recent weeks that the medical workers staged in front of their hospitals during their daily breaks at work.

“Both sides have had to step back a bit from initial positions,” said Health Minister Milan Kujundzic. The 7% increase “may not be enough for them, but it was really not easy for the government to set aside 400 million kuna ($60.05 million) annually.”

The unions initially demanded increases of at least 10%.

The Croatian government has faced demands for higher wages in recent weeks from education and public transport unions.

Last week, teachers protested and threatened to strike if their demand for a wage increase averaging around 6% was not met. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic promised to consider their demand and continue talks next week.

Croatia has considerably improved its public finances, posting a slight surplus for two years running after almost two decades of regular deficits. Critics say that was largely based on higher revenues rather than on cutting public spending.

In the first six months of this year, Croatia posted a general budget surplus of 0.3% of gross domestic product. ($1 = 6.6607 kuna) (Reporting by Igor Ilic, editing by Larry King)