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2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Croatia

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 20 November 2008
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Croatia, 20 November 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca98c.html [accessed 18 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 4,400,000
Capital: Zagreb
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Dismissals, dismissal threats and general intimidation of trade union activists took place in a number of private and public companies, often with blatant disregard for the law. Employers often ignore court decisions to reinstate trade unionists to their jobs. Organising is hampered by workers' dependence on short-term contracts, which especially affects women workers.

Trade union rights in law

Workers are entitled by law to form or join unions without prior authorisation. The Labour Code prohibits direct or indirect anti-union discrimination. Union delegates cannot be dismissed from work, transferred or demoted without the consent of the trade union. The right to strike is recognised with some limitations: strikes can only take place at the end of a collective bargaining agreement or in specific circumstances mentioned in the agreement. Compulsory arbitration for determination of minimum product maintenance may be imposed in any workplace.

Budget overrides collective agreements: The 1993 Act on the Realisation of the Government Budget allows the government to modify the substance of a collective agreement in the public sector if there are not sufficient funds in the budget to meet all the financial obligations arising from that agreement.

The Act on Salaries in Public Services also limits collective bargaining rights in the public sector by setting coefficients for the workplace, with the result that public sector workers can negotiate on their basic salaries only.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Anti-union employers: Private employers in small enterprises resist union organising, as do large national and international companies operating big commercial chains. Many of these employers simply prohibit their workers from organising.

Short-term contracts complicate organising: The majority of recently employed workers are on fixed-term contracts for up to three years, where each contract can be as short as three months. This especially affects women: around 95% of female workers who got a job in 2007, were employed on a basis of short-term contracts. Facing the threat of their contracts not being renewed, workers dare not join or form a union.

Slow justice: The average waiting time to obtain a court decision is three years, even though the backlog of court cases has been further reduced during the year. The European Court of Human Rights has been criticizing Croatian court delays as excessive. For example, the Metalworkers' Trade Union (SMH, affiliated to the ITUC member confederation UATUC) organisation at the "Technomontaza d.o.o." company, mentioned in the last year's survey, is still waiting for a court to rule on the employer's refusal to introduce the check-off system for trade union dues. The SMH organisation at "Hefest – metal d.o.o.", where the employer did deduct the dues but failed to transfer them to the trade union, managed to obtain a favourable decision but could not have it implemented, since the company's accounts had been frozen.

Court orders for the reinstatement of trade unionists unfairly dismissed are not always implemented. For example, Marijan Udovic, shop steward of the Autonomous Trade Union of workers in power industry, chemistry and non-metal industry EKN (UATUC member) at "Lipa" company in Novi Marof, was dismissed in May 2006, reinstated in December 2006, but still did not get his job back. The employer preferred to pay a fine for failure to comply with a court order than to reinstate a trade unionist. The trade unions have called for real labour courts, which could significantly reduce the duration of a court case.

Harassment and dismissals of trade union delegates: In June, the shop steward and a group of members of the EKN trade union at Sisak Water Company (town of Sisak) were dismissed after a trade union press conference. The case is currently in court. On 10 January, three months after a SMH organisation was formed at Saint Jeans Industry in Slavonski Brod, all trade union members were suddenly dismissed. The Saint Jeans Industry management continued to intimidate SMH members, who now fear to lose their jobs. The SMH shop steward at "Sila d.o.o." company in Zagreb was dismissed following a series of verbal attacks and the employer's general disrespect of trade unions.

If a trade union refuses to give its consent to dismissing a union delegate, the employer may still do so via court procedure. On 15 June, Poduzece za ceste d.o.o. (a company in the road sector) sued the Trade Union of Construction Industry (SGH, affiliated to the ITUC member confederation UATUC) to obtain authorisation for dismissing Krunoslav Cizmarevic, who was declared incapable for work. Cizmarevic, who is also a member of works council at the company, could easily have been given other tasks to perform in the company. A similar situation occurred in Vodice d.o.o. (town of Vodica), where Ivan Spadina, a 59-years old SGH shop steward and a works council representative, was initially offered a transfer, but later the employer tried to make Spadina redundant.

The management of Semmelrock Stein + Design d.o.o., a subsidiary of the Austrian multinational in the town of Ogulin, has been hostile towards the local SGH organisation since 2005. Since Vlado Susanj was elected as a shop steward, he was transferred to another job and prevented from taking part in trade union meetings. Susanj was forced to quit his employment work on 10 October.

Workers in the private kindergarten "Bambi" in the town of Bjelovar suffered from mobbing, bad working conditions and frequent wage arrears. Since an organisation of the Education Trade Union (SOOH, affiliated to the ITUC member confederation UATUC) was formed there in July, intimidation and verbal attacks intensified, and trade union members were also threatened with dismissals. SOOH managed to reach an agreement with the kindergarten founder, but it is not being implemented, as both the founder and the general manager oppose trade union organising.

Violations of workers and trade union rights in the "Dalmatinka Nova" company started already in 2003 after an Italian company "La Distributice" bought it. By 2007, outrageous wage arrears left the workers in complete agony, and the case received high media coverage, with "Dalmatinka Nova" being called "the worst employer in Croatia". Iva Radonja, a woman shop steward of a trade union affiliated to the ITUC member confederation NHS, was suspended from work and finally dismissed after a number of high-profile strikes and protests organised by the union. Several other trade unionists shared a similar fate. By the end of the year, Radonja obtained a court order to be reinstated to her work, but the employer did not allow her back. After more protests, workers filing for company bankruptcy and with the help of several institutions and officials, including the Croatian president, the trade union and the employer reached an agreement on a number of issues; Radonja, however, was not able to return to work.

Trade union lawyer sued: On 27 February a meeting took place between the management of "Croatia Pumpe" company in the town of Karlovac and the representatives of the SMH trade union. SMH came to address the situation of its members, who were asked to voluntarily terminate their employment contracts with "Croatia Pumpe" before being transferred to another employer. This is prohibited by law and the workers, should they agree, would have lost a number of important rights as well as their collective agreement. The trade union lawyer, Gordana Palajsa, recalled an earlier similar case having harsh consequences on both workers and the company. The employer's representative responded by verbally attacking the lawyer, causing her to leave the meeting. SMH had to bring private prosecution against the employer.

Favouritism in "Hrvatske autoceste": "Hrvatske Autoceste" (Croatian Highways), a very profitable state company, opposes an organisation of the Independent Trade Union, affiliated to NHS. After the employer's attempt to control the union failed, some managers tried to decrease its influence in the company. While the Independent Trade Union comprises 90% of all unionised workers in the company, the unorganised workers are openly solicited to join another trade union, one which is much more amenable to the employer. The members of Independent Trade Union have been offered benefits for changing their trade union affiliation. At the time of writing it was known that NHS tried to resolve this situation with the government, who is the sole owner of Hrvatske Autoceste, but received no help.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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