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2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Croatia

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2010
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Croatia, 9 June 2010, available at: [accessed 23 November 2017]
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

Organising is hampered by workers' dependence on short-term contracts, which particularly applies to women workers, and by inefficient courts and labour inspectorates. Four workers were dismissed and one suspended during the year because of their trade union activities. The right to strike is somewhat limited. The new Labour Code allows for more labour market flexibility and liberalisation.

Trade union rights in law

Fundamental trade union rights are guaranteed though with some limitations. Workers are entitled by law to form or join unions of their own choosing without prior authorisation, and union representatives are protected against anti-union discrimination.

The constitution and law protect collective bargaining. However, the new Act on the Basis for Wages in Public Services that entered into force on 1 April 2009 endangers freedom of collective bargaining. With this new Act, the government found a way to balance its budget without unilaterally cancelling the collective agreement but still obtaining salary reductions for public services employees.

The law provides for the right to strike, with some limitations. Strikes can take place in order to promote and protect social interests of trade union members if wages have not paid during 30 days from the date on which they are due. In addition, the law limits the implementation of strikes if they were not preceded by conciliation procedures. Compulsory arbitration for determination of minimum product maintenance may be imposed in any workplace.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009

Background: EU accession negotiations were unblocked in September, following an agreement between the Croatian and Slovenian prime ministers on arbitration for the border dispute. The country also suffered the impact of the economic crisis, with unemployment at its highest since 2007 (16.1%). The new Labour Code, intended to bring Croatian labour legislation in line with the European Union's acquis communautaire, allows more labour market flexibility and liberalisation and as a consequence, the use of fixed short-term contracts is still widespread despite strong trade union efforts to partially limit the possibility of using such contracts.

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 women, with around 95% of female workers being employed on short-term contracts. Facing the threat of their contracts not being renewed, workers do not dare to form or join a union.

Justice and law enforcement – still room for improvement: The latest EU Progress Report on Croatia, while applauding the reduction in the backlog of cases, continued to note that court procedures were too long, that the enforcement of court decisions was ineffective, and that the monitoring and follow-up by the State Inspectorate and the judicial system of violations of workers' rights remained weak. Croatian trade unions have called for the establishment of real labour courts, which could significantly expedite the resolution of labour conflicts. The reinstatement of trade union leaders remains a problem, as employers sometimes prefer to pay a fine for failure to comply with a court order than to reinstate a trade unionist.

Starco Beli Manastir tried to dismiss shop stewards: On 28 January, just a month after a branch of the Metalworkers' Trade Union of Croatia (SMH) was established at Starco Beli Manastir, in Osijek, the company management tried to dismiss three shop stewards for economic reasons. However, since Croatian legislation requires the consent of a higher-level trade union in such situations, and the regional organisation of the SMH refused to approve these redundancies, all the activists remained employed.

Unionists dismissed in Dubrovnik: Three leaders of the Trade Union of Tourism and Services (STUH) lost their jobs because of their union activities in the city of Dubrovnik. On 17 June, Libertas Rixos d.o.o. dismissed Junuz Custovic, who had insisted that the company comply with the Labour Code (the irregularities were later confirmed by the labour inspectorate). On 2 July, the same company dismissed Elin Djapo, who had urged the company to comply with health and safety regulations. On 23 July, Importane Resort d.o.o. dismissed Stipe Matic, an experienced butcher, to discourage the other employees from becoming trade union shop stewards.

Unregistered swine flu vaccine – whistleblower suspended: On 2 October Dr. Srecko Sladoljev, the workers' representative in the supervisory board of the Institute of Immunology in Zagreb and a member of the works council, was suspended from work. Dr. Sladoljev is also a member of the local branch of the EKN, the Autonomous Union of Power, Chemical and Non-Metal Workers. In an earlier interview, he had denounced the lack of transparency in the Institute's decision-making regarding a purchase of swine flu vaccine, and said he thought the situation was likely to cause severe harm to both the company and the public. Concerned that the producer was accepting no responsibility for the potential undesirable effects of the vaccine, the EKN warned the owner and the general public. Dr. Sladoljev was then suspended and banned from entering the Institute premises.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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