Union leaders Sanja Šprem and Branimir Mihalinec join Prime Minister Andrej Plenković in announcing a compromise has been reached to end the school strike (Photo: HRT) Union leaders Sanja Šprem and Branimir Mihalinec join Prime Minister Andrej Plenković in announcing a compromise has been reached to end the school strike (Photo: HRT)

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković addressed a press conference early Monday evening, telling reporters that the sides had reached a good compromise and that students could return to their classrooms on Tuesday morning.

“School is returning to normal in Croatia starting on Tuesday. A compromise has been reached that is, first and foremost, in the interest of children, students, parents, teachers, and the normal functioning of our education system,” Plenković said following the final round of talks with school unions.

The sides have agreed to address the unions’ biggest grievance, the salary coefficients of public school employees, giving teachers an incremental increase to the number by which base salary is multiplied in calculating salaries. The first raise, 3%, to the coefficient will happen in January of next year, affecting December salaries. Teachers will receive an andditional 1% raise to their salary coefficients on June 1st 2020, and another 2% in January of 2021. The unions, who represent teachers, but also administrative and other staff in schools, agreed to the coefficient bump but only for teachers. Non-teaching staff will receive additional pay through bonuses, which has angered some union members who said they felt cheated by their union leaders.

Plenković said a deal could have been reached without the strike, and said the government would review the entire government payroll system to ensure long-term sustainability.

“We tried to meet them half-way as much as we could. This is a taxpayer-friendly government because we are not borrowing money like past governments have and we are not burdening future generations with debt,” Plenković said.

Over the course of the 36 day strike, students will have missed 16 days of classes. Now, they will have to make up the time that they missed. The sides have agreed that teachers will be paid for the time they spent on strike, but not extra for the time the will spend making up for the lost time.

“We expect the unions to help us restore order to schools. If teachers will be paid for the time they are on strike then it is only fair they aren't paid extra for the time they will spend making up the missed work,” Plenković said.

The leader of the Independent Union of Secondary School Employees, Branimir Mihalinec, who negotiated the deal along with fellow union leader Sanja Šprem, also said it was a good compromise.

“This is a good compromise by which we, the unions of the education system, have achieved our ultimate goal, the goal we set at the very beginning and that is to bridge the 6.11% gap between our salaries and the rest of the public sector. We broke this down into three steps to reach the final goal, the coefficient of 1.406, and we'll get there in one year and a month,” Mihalinec said at the press conference.

Mihalinec also said it was fair that teachers would not be getting any extra pay for the time they will have to make up.

“In this kind of situation, everyone who participated in the strike is morally obligated to make up for all of the lost time. Students must not be shortchanged. They must receive the same education that they would have had there been no strike,” he said.