PM says no blackmail over school strike, hints at solution

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Prime Minister and HDZ president Andrej Plenkovic said on Tuesday that there would be talks with school unions about their ongoing strike, that "there's no blackmail but there is a solution", and that the government had some ideas for school employees that it thought could be good.

Asked by reporters ahead of a meeting of the ruling HDZ party's parliamentary group if Croatia was facing a snap election, he said "we're still not at that stage."

Asked if the ruling coalition could break up because of school unions' demands and if the junior coalition partner, the Croatian People's Party (HNS), was blackmailing him, he said "nothing is that dramatic."

Asked if he was willing to offer school employees more, Plenkovic said they "have some ideas" they thought were good and that they would talk about them.

Reporters remarked that the school strike was under way, that negotiations were interrupted and that school unions announced a press conference outside the government for Wednesday morning, he reiterated that he saw no reason for the strike and that his government had raised salaries "between 15 and 17%."

Plenkovic said he did not wish to talk about previous governments which slashed salaries and abolished entitlements. "I think this government's good will towards all employees in Croatia, including those in the public sector, is more than clear. We respect them all equally."

He reiterated that the government was taking into account the entire economic policy, fiscal consolidation and everything that made it possible to have lower interest rates for citizens and businesses as well as to balance the budget.

We act as a government which has a clear and consistent course and policy, Plenkovic said, adding that the government would continue with this approach. "I'm inviting the unions to a dialogue and all political parties to take a realistic and good approach towards problem solving."

Asked if he would ask the courts about the legality of the school strike given that he said earlier there was no legal basis for it, Plenkovic said that would see.

He said that politically there was no justified reason for the strike, notably in a month when "teachers, whose job we appreciate and respect, received higher salaries than the month before."

That's a little unusual as there is no "burning" issue over which the strike should last. I understand it as a union initiative to create pressure but objectively, according to all possible criteria, it shouldn't have happened because a dialogue was under way, Plenkovic said.

"The offers on the table are serious. We'll find solutions that are good. The strike is under way based on decisions of those which organised it, not because of the government. I'm calling on teachers to dedicate themselves to what is important to them, the education of our children."

Asked if he expected 82 votes in parliament on Friday for a report on the government's performance and confidence in Health Minister Milan Kujundzic, and if the majority was steady, Plenkovic said that, as far as he could see, it was.

He said he did not talk with the HNS today but that he would.

As for a Zadar court's decision not to detain persons suspected of raping an underage girl, Plenkovic said Justice Minister Drazen Bosnajkovic had expressed the government's and his ministry's position on the case very clearly and that he shared it completely.

Asked about employers' dissatisfaction with the possibility of working until 68, he said he felt that those who wished to work longer should be able to do so.

Text: Hina

News | Plenkovic Andrej