Transparency & Corruption, Pensions/retirement, Low pay/minimum wages, Croatia, Armenia
A joint campaign of the three main trade union confederations has been successful in getting support for a referendum to undo legal changes that increased the retirement age to 67. The unions needed to reach a target of 373,568 signatures (10% of registered voters) in a two-week campaign that ended on 11 May. They easily passed the threshold, amassing 600,000 signatures and its now up to the government to respond and confirm that it will organise the referendum.
Three trade union confederations have come together to launch a campaign to secure a referendum with the aim of reversing changes to the retirement age. The unions want to retain 65 as the normal retirement age but the government has already put in place legislation to increase it to 67 and more recently to bring forward the date of full implementation. If the unions can get the support of 10% of the electorate then the government will have to organise a referendum. EPSU sent a message of support to the unions.
Unions from all sectors joined a national demonstration in Zagreb on 20 October in protest against changes to the pensions system, including an increase in pension age to 67. Unions are calling for a pension age of 65 and to retain rules on early retirement including the possibility of retiring at 60 with 41 years of contributions. EPSU sent a message of solidarity.
The SOMK education, culture and media union organised demonstrations in Zagreb and Rijeka to protest against plans to raise the retirement age for childcare workers from 65 to 67. The union argues that the change fails to recognise the nature of work in the sector and the increasing mental and physical demands made on childcare workers. EPSU sent a message of solidarity as did the BDDSz childcare workers from Hungary.
On 12 May healthworkers in Sofia and Zagreb demonstrated over poor pay and working conditions and the crisis of understaffing. 5000 nurses, medical professionals, midwives and lab technicians joined a demonstration outside the Council of Ministers in Sofia demanding a 1500 Lev (EUR 765) minimum wage for health workers as a step towards stemming the flow of health workers out of the country. In Zagreb the call was also for improved pay and working conditions and in particular the respect for collective agreements in relation to overtime pay.
An analysis by the European Trade Union Institute shows that wage convergence between East and West in Europe was steady up until 2008. However, since then the trend has either stalled or gone into reverse. Taking national average pay as a percentage of the average across the pre-2004 EU15, Croatia and Hungary show the largest increase in the pay gap since 2008. There were also increases in Slovenia, Czech Republic, Poland and Romania.Most progress was made in Bulgaria but from a very low level (11.8%) to 17.7%, still less than a fifth of average pay in the West.