Crisis: first big anti-austerity protest in Croatia

7,000 public employees take to the streets against gov't cuts

11 October, 20:00

(ANSAmed) - ZAGREB, OCTOBER 11 - An estimated 7,000 public employees demonstrated in the capital city center on Thursday against the government's public spending cuts.

It was the first union-led protest against the Social-Democratic government of Zoran Milanovic, which in September unilaterally canceled collective bargaining agreements in the health care, education, research and culture sectors after failed negotiations with labor leaders.

Unions rejected a government deal to give up year-end bonuses and other benefits in exchange for a promise that none of Croatia's 200,000 public employees would be sacked.

Labor wanted government to underwrite an agreement to return all wages and benefits once the economic crisis is over.

The government responded by unilaterally cutting teachers' wages, arguing that this was the only way to save 100 million euros and maintain the country's credit rating. Croatia's economy will contract by 1.1% in 2012, according to the International Monetary Fund. In September, unemployment flew to a 10-year record high of 18%. (ANSAmed).

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