Workers’ demonstrations – „Together for Higher Wages in Private and Public Sector“, Zagreb, 12 April 2008

For contemporary trade union movement of Croatia, Saturday 12 April 2008 was a historical day, a day to remember. More than 55 000 demonstrators gathered at the central square in Zagreb Trg bana Josipa Jelačića, who came from all over Croatia, from among trade union ranks and supported by the citizens of Zagreb, to send an expressed message to the Croatian Government and Parliament, as well as to employers, that it is no longer possible to live with such wages!

The public protest – workers demonstrations were initiated by the Union of Autonomous Trade Unions of Croatia (UATUC), however other four trade union confederations joined in its organization: Independent Trade Unions of Croatia (NHS), Association of Croatian Public Services Unions (Matica), Croatian Trade Union Association (HUS) and Trade Union of Services UNI Cro. The sixth trade union confederation (Association of Workers’ Trade Unions of Croatia/URSH) did not join the demonstrations due to „lack of time for organizational preparations“.

Apart from the trade union members and workers, demonstrations were supported by numerous pensioners, unemployed persons, students from the various Croatian universities (Zagreb, Zadar, Rijeka…), pupils, non-governmental organizations and many others. A few kilometres-long line started from the square Trg dr.Franje Tuđmana at 11.00. Head of the demonstration line reached the Main Square Trg bana Josipa Jelačića at 12.00 while the rear reached the square at 13.00. These demonstrations have been the largest independent workers’ demonstrations since independence of Croatia (the famous large demonstrations of 1998 were smaller in extent and with political dimension and coordination!).

The demonstrators sent a message to the authorities and employers that they do not want a country of the arrogant rich and the degraded poor. They demanded the improvement of living standard of all people, protection of fundamental workers’ rights, greater social security, lower scholarship fees etc. Not even a bad weather and heavy rain prevented a number of demonstrators to show their dissatisfaction, and a packed central square was an impressive site – a river of red caps, flags and banners. The majority of demonstrators were members of the trade unions affiliated to the UATUC.

The addresses were given by Spomenka Avberšek, UATUC Vice-President for public sector, Krešimir Sever, NHS President, Werner Thum, FERPA President, Vilim Ribić, Matica Vice-President, Stjepan Kolarić, President of Trade Union of Services UNI Cro, Jeniseja Fištrek, representative of the unemployed, Miroslav Juranek, students’ representative, Ozren Matijašević, HUS President, Ronald Janssen ETUC Advisor and UATUC President Ana Knežević.

«Croatia has to make progress, and it can be done only together. We do not agree to being a fig leaf on the partnership trefoil. We are an equal partner, and all of us gathered here sending you a message are a proof of that. We want Croatia in which it is an honour to be a citizen, a pleasure to be a worker, desirable to be an entrepreneur and we want a state of well-being, because Croatia is capable of that and because we deserve it», said Ana Knežević.

UATUC and its affiliated trade unions received letters of support from the trade unions all over Europe, and national delegations from Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hungary, Italy, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia and Slovenia, as well as representatives of the ITUC PERC, and South Europe Women’s Network, came to support Croatian workers.

The Union of Autonomous Trade Unions of Croatia, as well as the other confederations, are determined to continue with pressures and efforts aimed at achieving the set objectives. We hope our demands will be met.

ITUC-PERC solidarity letter