November 19, 2019 / 10:33 AM / 19 days ago

Croatian teachers escalate strike to step up pressure on government

FILE PHOTO: Teachers are seen during a protest in downtown of Zagreb, Croatia, November 6,2019. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic/File Photo

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatian school teachers began a full nationwide strike on Tuesday, the leader of one of the top teachers’ unions said, in an escalation of their industrial action aimed at forcing the government to start talks on their demands for a wage hike.

Primary and secondary school teachers launched their strike on Oct. 10, but until now had organised the action in such a way that on some days classes were cancelled countrywide and on others the action was only in some areas.

“As the government has ignored our demands, we’ve decided to change our approach to accelerate the whole process and force the government to sit down with us and talk,” Branimir Mihalinec from the trade union of secondary school teachers said.

Croatian teachers are demanding a wage increase of just over 6%, saying their salaries lag other public sector roles.

The government says the strike has no justification after it announced last month a wage hike of 6.12% for all public sector employees from next year.

The unions say that more than 90 percent of their members rejected the government’s current offer, as their salaries would still keep lagging behind other public sector roles.

“Now it is not just a struggle for higher wages, but also for dignity of our profession. We’re preparing a great protest gathering on the Zagreb central square on Nov. 25,” Mihalinec told reporters.

Croatia has run a small budget surplus in the past two years and hopes to preserve sound public finances as one of the key conditions for meeting the criteria for adopting the euro, the European Union’s single currency, by 2024.

The parliament has adopted a 2020 budget planning a general budget surplus of 0.2% of gross domestic product.

Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Alex Richardson

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