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2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Croatia

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Croatia, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd8895616.html [accessed 20 April 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 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Threats: 1
Imprisonments: 1
Dismissals: 7

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

Unlawful dismissals of shop stewards and trade union members continue to undermine the right to organise and to strike. Trade unionists whose rights have been violated usually manage to obtain a court decision in their favour, but these are not always respected by the employers. At least three shop stewards were dismissed.

Background

Concluding the negotiations in June 2011 and signing the EU Accession Treaty in December, Croatia is set to become 28th EU member state on 1 July 2013. Elections held on 4 December 2011 resulted with the change of Government after eight years, and brought to power centre-left coalition led by Social Democrat Prime Minister Zoran Milanović. High level corruption investigations have continued, including the trial against former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader which started in September. Although the country finally exited recession in the first quarter of 2011, unemployment continued to increase until the end of the year.

Trade union rights in law

Fundamental trade union rights are guaranteed, although with some limitations. Workers are entitled to form or join unions of their own choosing without prior authorisation, and union representatives are protected against anti-union discrimination. The right to collective bargaining is recognised by law. Public sector unions jointly negotiate the basis for all wages in the public sector, but unions may also negotiate their salaries separately with the government. However, the Act on the Basis for Wages in Public Services stipulates that if a collective agreement is not concluded before the adoption of the state budget, the government can decide on the wages unilaterally.

The Local and Regional Self-Government Wage Act of 19 February 2010 also restricts the right to bargain collectively for employees of local and regional self-governments. The right to strike is secured, however the strike provisions in the 2010 Labour Act do not apply to employees in state administration and public services, and the special law that will regulate this matter has not yet been adopted.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Short-term contracts complicate organising: The majority of recently employed workers are on fixed-term contracts for up to three years, with some contracts being as short as three months. This situation especially affects young workers and women. Faced with the threat of their contracts not being renewed, workers do not dare to form or join a union.

Reprisals for trade union activities: It is not uncommon for shop stewards and union activists to face reprisals, including dismissals, for organising industrial action or for publicly speaking about companies' illegal business practices.

Violations

Dismissed for joining the union: Prompted by repeated violation of workers' rights, 12 lorry drivers employed by the Džajić Promet road transport company, in Zagreb, joined the Trade Union of Croatian Drivers in December 2010, electing Tomislav Pavlek as shop steward. After informing the employer about the election of their shop steward, all 12 union members were called for individual interviews, and requested to leave the union or face salary cuts or dismissal. In addition to Pavlek, only four drivers remained union members. On 28 February, the employer dismissed Pavlek and the remaining four union members.

Union dissolved under employer pressure: On 16 June, the Trade Union of Istria and Kvarner (SIK) announced that its enterprise level organisation at the public water management company Vodovod, in Pula, was closing down. The decision came after the last of 22 members in the company left the union because of employer pressure. Anti union harassment had been going on for some time. The shop steward, Stanko Radulović, was harassed by the company director Darko Višnjić for months, due to his involvement in collective negotiations in the company. He was finally dismissed, without the union's consent, on 6 June 2010. On 19 July, the Municipal Court in Pula ruled in favour of Radulović, who had sued Vodovod for unlawful dismissal.

Unlawful collection of union membership data: The Croatian Tax Administration, in a circular letter sent on 19 May 2011, requested its employees to fill in forms containing personal data, including their nationality and trade union affiliation. The request was in violation of the Constitution and the Law on Personal Data Protection, as there was no legal document providing for the collection of this kind of data. Following a report filed by the Trade Union of State and Local Government Employees of Croatia, the Croatian Personal Data Protection Agency confirmed the action was unlawful and ordered the Tax Administration to discontinue further collection and processing of such data.

Dismissed during strike: Workers at the stone quarrying and processing company Jadrankamen, in Pučišća on the island of Brač, went on strike on 12 December for the fifth time in a year, in protest at the non-payment of wages and social contributions, and violations of the collective agreement. The management sued the Independent Trade Union Jadrankamen on the basis that the strike was unlawful, but on 13 December the County Court in Split ruled the strike was legal. The President of the enterprise-level union, Tonči Drpić, was nevertheless dismissed on 15 December.

Journalists right to strike undermined:

Members of the Trade Union of Journalists employed by Croatia's largest circulation daily, Večernji list, in Zagreb, owned by the Austrian Styria Media Group, went on strike on 23 March, following the employer's refusal to sign a new collective agreement. The management hired security guards and locked the entrance to the company on the day the strike began, preventing workers from holding their strike at the workplace. The management also requested each worker to individually state if he/she was on strike or not, and hired freelance journalists to replace workers on strike.

During a strike organised at the local daily Glas Istre, in Pula, in November 2010, the judge of the County Court in Pula Ondina Vidulić Matijević ruled that the production of a newspaper is an activity that cannot be terminated during a strike and issued a back to work order for 20 workers, thus effectively restricting the right to strike for remaining journalists who subsequently had to terminate the strike. In a subsequent hearing at the County Court in Zagreb, the court retroactively annulled the original ruling, stating it has not only significantly limited, but rendered impossible, the right to strike, and as such was legally unfounded. Although without effect for the strike in Glas Istre, the decision could be significant for future journalists' strikes, as it clearly stated it is unacceptable to issue back to work order in the media insofar as it would undermine the right to strike.

Anti-union harassment against shop stewards:

Dalibor Tudić, shop steward of the Trade Union of Tourism and Services of Croatia (STUH), resigned in June 2011, following eight months of constant anti-union pressure and mobbing by his employer, the sport-betting company Pelikan kladionice, in Zagreb. Among other things, STUH reported that the employer unlawfully amended Tudić's employment contract, prevented his trade union work and banned him from entering the company premises.

Just two days after a branch union of the Trade Union of Wood and Paper Industry was established in the Pan paper manufacturing company in Donji Andrijaševci in November, newly elected shop steward Marinko Matić was unlawfully demoted. Employees decided to form a union after months of being paid their wages in coupons which could be used only in the company's shops.

In October, the New Trade Union, affiliated to the Croatian Trade Union Association, filed criminal charges and requested a labour inspection of the companies Presoflex gradnja, in Požega, and Sunčana staza, in Zagreb, because they would not allow trade union activity in the company. According to the New Trade Union, both companies have dismissed shop stewards without union consent, as well as workers over 60 years old, which is also in violation of the Labour Law.

Persistent anti-union pressure against drivers union: The Municipal Court in Sinj ordered the reinstatement of Anto Buljan and Branko Norac, shop stewards from the Trade Union of Drivers and Traffic Workers of Autoprijevoz, who were dismissed in April 2010 without the consent of their union. In the case of Buljan, the employer appealed but the County Court in Split confirmed the first-instance decision. In October 2011, the employer filed a suit against Buljan, demanding compensation for damaging the company's reputation by going on hunger strike the previous year. On 16 November, union members Ivan Čupić, Slavko Bračulj and Igor Tokić started a hunger strike after being made redundant, while only six weeks earlier four new drivers were employed on fixed-term contracts, due to the increased volume of work. On the first day of their action, the employer hired security guards who attempted to oust the workers from the company premises, and after failing to do so, locked them into the building. The workers were unlocked only after the arrival of the police. The Croatian Association of Trade Unions (HUS), which also has a branch in the company, reported the employer's attempt to dismiss their shop steward Veljko Nasić in July 2011. Both unions also stated that the employer is sponsoring a yellow union among newly employed workers. Following an investigation initiated in 2010, in September 2011 the County State Attorney's Office in Split issued an indictment against the owner and company director Joško Jerkan and two other members of the management for a wide range of malpractices in the company's operations.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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