Assessment of follow-up: Matica Hrvatskih Sindikata v. Croatia, Complaint No. 116/2015, decision on the merits of 21 March 2018, Resolution CM/ResChS(2018)10
Violation of Article 6§2
Decision of the Committee on the merits of the complaint
The European Committee of Social Rights found a violation of Article 6§2 of the 1961 Charter on the ground that the adoption in 2012 of the Act on Withdrawal of Certain Material Rights of the Employed in Public Services (Official Gazette No. 143/2012) amounted to an unjustified interference in the collective bargaining process. Although the intervention complained of was prescribed by law and was justified by the Government in order to maintain the fiscal stability of the public service system, (i.e. the public interest), the Government provided little information on the economic situation prevailing in Croatia at the time of the adoption of the legislation.
The Committee found no violation of Articles 5, 6§1, Article 6§3, 6§4 of the 1961 Charter.
Information provided by the GovernmentIn its response to the Committee of Ministers concerning the decision of the European Committee of Social Rights, the Government emphasised that all the conditions prescribed by the Article 31 were met at the time of the adoption of the contested measure. The suspension/withdrawal of the Christmas bonus was determined by the law which was adopted in normal legislative procedure in Croatian Parliament. The measure was necessary in order to protect the fiscal stability of the State which is definitely in the public interest. Namely, insufficient revenues or excessive deficit could have led to massive social inequalities in Croatian society. While many workers from the private sector suffered dismissals which led to increased budget for unemployment and social benefits, the workers in public sector did not face such problems. In order to make a balance in budget and to protect social justice the Government tried to make an agreement with trade unions from the public sector. Since it was not possible to reach an agreement the only solution was to pass the Act on Withdrawal of Certain Material Rights of the Employed in Public Services (Official Gazette No. 143/2012).The Act clearly represented a proportionate measure since it did not include dismissals in public sector and it did not diminish the salaries. Even if the arguments from the Government were too general and insufficient they did demonstrate excessive public deficit and huge problems with fiscal stability. Due to negative rating of the public finances Croatia was not able to finance additional debts. The global financial and economic crisis has had a belated effect on the Croatian economy, which was reflected in a considerable decrease in economic activity, a steady decline in the GDP and a constant increase in the rate of unemployment, with a subsequent decrease in the citizens’ standard of living. As a conclusion Croatia strongly believes that the possibility of applying restrictions according to Article 31 of the 1961 Charter was used within the scope of the Article in order to protect public interest and it was used proportionally to the aim pursued.
The authorities further stated that the Act on Withdrawal of Certain Material Rights of the Employed in Public Services (Official Gazette No. 143/2012) is no longer in force. It was a short-term measure that no longer produces any legal effects. Its effect was limited to the period of the economic crisis.
Meanwhile the Government signed a new collective agreement with trade unions representing workers from public sector. The new collective agreement contains all material rights which were suspended during the economic crisis. Therefore, the workers from the public sector are entitled to both Christmas bonus and bonus for holidays as agreed in the collective agreement. The Government respects all contractual obligations. Since 2017, the basic salary for all workers in the public sector was increased three times, each time by 2%.
Assessment of the follow-upThe Act of 2012 on Withdrawal of Certain Material Rights of the Employed in Public Services (Official Gazette No. 143/2012) which gave rise to the complaint in question, is no longer in force. Therefore, the Committee decides to bring its examination of the follow-up to the decision to an end.