The National Labour Conference was held in the International Hotel in Zagreb on 17 November 2020. The conference was supposed to be organized in spring 2020 as a kick-off activity of the Labour Informational System in Croatia/LISC project by Metalworkers’ Trade Union of Croatia–Industrial Trade Union (SMH-IS), however due to the Covid-19 pandemics
and lockdown in Croatia and other European countries it was postponed and organized after some other Project activities.
The conference was organized in line with all the epidemiological recommendations at the time which allowed the maximum of 25 participants indoors while maintaining social distance and using protective equipment. Because of such conditions, Norwegian experts joined the conference online.
The conference was attended by SMH-IS shop stewards, experts and SMH President, and employers’ representatives, who took part in the work of the previous Project workshops (held on 17 and 18 June 2020), and by the representatives of the Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Politics (MROSP) and the Croatian Employment Service (HZZ).
Assistant to the Labour Minister, Mr Dražen Opalić presented the Ministry’s priorities for the forthcoming period (parliamentary elections were held in Croatia in early July), which include the development and improvement of the system of management and provision of key labour market information, and the promotion of social dialogue and collective bargaining. He emphasized, in particular, the Ministry’s readiness for cooperation and discussion of the forthcoming Project recommendations.
Norwegian Project expert, delivered his topics (Cooperation between public authorities and social partners based on the Nordic/Norwegian model of decent work and Good Norwegian practices – recommendations) through three presentations: A short presentation about Solidaritet Norge Trade Union, Cooperation between public authorities and social partners
based on the Nordic/Norwegian model for decent work and Recommendations: Knowledge exchange, recommended directions and methods of social dialogue. He presented the gradual development of employment relationships in the Norwegian/Nordic working life and social dialogue over the last 100 years, an overview of the important institutions that have continued to facilitate dialogue since the year 2000, and the challenges facing the future of work.
He finished with recommendations on how to improve social dialogue, mostly to the trade union organizations. Within the topic Cooperation between public authorities and social partners in Croatia – what is missing!?, the Croatian expert, in her presentation presented the most important highlights of the Croatian report The Profile of Croatia on decent work: Presentation of cooperation between public authorities and social partners, comparison with the Nordic/Norwegian model and recommendations for the implementation of the best Norwegian practice. She gave a brief overview of the development of social and political and economic relations over the past 100 years, however, the emphasis was on the development of labor and industrial relations in the last 30 years, since the independence of Croatia in 1991 and its return to capitalism after 45 years of socialism. She compared the effects of the Croatian and Norwegian labor market, ways of wage bargaining in Norway (Norwegian model) and in Croatia (without horizontal and vertical coordination), key actors and institutions in the two systems and social dialogue and tripartism today, at the industry and company level. Finally, she presented the best Norwegian practices which could be applicable in Croatia, if tripartite consensus is reached.
Experts’ intervention was followed by a discussion which in the end confirmed the statement of the Norwegian expert that the main differences of the social dialogue institution in Central and Eastern Europe, including Croatia, and the Norwegian model concerned the scope of responsibilities and competencies of trade unions, the institutional and legal context, political significance, the existing tradition of communication between interest groups and public perception and trade union status in public space.
Among others, it was concluded that in Croatia it is necessary to reach a common understanding on the following:
- The need for cooperation between social partners and with public authorities and to strengthen each party’s capacities for tripartite and bipartite social dialogue,
- Economic and social benefits of leading a coordinated wage policy through collective agreements as the best mechanism of implementation of the decent work concept
- The need for the establishment of the collective bargaining system: collective bargaining coordination (horizontal and vertical), bargaining dynamics per levels and setting the norm at the beginning of new bargaining cycle (Technical Calculation Committee for Wage Settlements, starting the cycle with bargaining within the exporters in order to avoid a threat to their competitiveness at the global market, etc.)
- The need for unique and recognizable Croatian model of industrial relations which will be respected regardless of the change of government (education throughout schooling is necessary as a preparation for entrepreneurship and/or labour market)
- The need for credible and publicly available statistics and analytics of the labour market, as a precondition for collective bargaining on wages (Labour Market Institute)
- The need to establish institutions, tripartite and bipartite, capable of solving problems using the social dialogue mechanism, and of addressing the current and future challenges before social partners and communities in which they operate
- Autonomous dialogue of social partners is key for the culture of dialogue in general
- The link between public policies and labour relations area (horizontal link and cross-sectoral approach) for which social partners have the greatest responsibility, and government’s respect of the agreements they manage to reach.
On the basis of contributions, discussion and conclusions, the Report, i.e. the Profile of Croatia on decent work was finalized, which serves as a basis for the implementation of other Project activities.