Croatia faces possible wave of public sector strikes in September

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Croatia faces possible wave of public sector strikes in September

Workers from shipyards "3. May" and "Uljanik" protest and hold banner "we want salary" in front of government building in Zagreb

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatian public transport workers announced on Tuesday they will hold a strike next month on the first day of the school year unless the government accepts their demand for higher pay and better physical protection at work.

The government is also facing a threat of strikes in September in the health and education sectors.

"The targeted date for the strike remains Sept. 9. The result of the talks (with the government representatives) in the coming days will decide whether we will call it off," said Anto Jelic from the union grouping drivers and transportation workers after a meeting in the Transport Ministry.

The workers are seeking more pay and a special status for drivers guaranteeing better protection. Drivers suffer "frequent verbal and physical abuse" at work, the union said.

Public transport in all major cities, including the capital Zagreb, would be disrupted if the strike takes place, the union said.

The transport ministry made no immediate comment after the meeting with the union leaders. Last week the Finance Minister Zdravko Maric said he supported higher salaries for all public sector workers, but in line with what the budget can support.

Unions representing doctors and nurses are currently in talks with the health minister, calling for a 7% pay increase. Primary and secondary schools teachers are also unhappy with what they call a lack of willingness by the government to engage in serious talks with them over more pay.

In the last two years Croatia has run a slight budget surplus. The government has forecast a slight deficit this year, of 0.3% of gross domestic product.

(Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Frances Kerry)