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Striking Croatian teachers reject government pay offer

FILE PHOTO: Croatia's Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic arrives for the second day of the European Union leaders summit dominated by Brexit, in Brussels, Belgium October 18, 2019. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatian teachers have rejected a government offer of a gradual 10.4% pay rise and are pressing on with a strike, trade union leaders said on Friday.

The primary and secondary school teachers stepped up industrial action by beginning a full nationwide strike on Nov. 19, halting most classes, to press demands for more pay.

They also say they are undervalued by the government in comparison with other public sector workers, and want changes to regulations which they say mean their salaries have for years lagged behind workers in other areas of the public sector.

“The message to the government is that the teachers primarily want to resolve the issue of their status as public sector employees,” said Branimir Mihalinec, the leader of the union of secondary school teachers.

About 90% of teachers voted against the latest government offer in an internal referendum, union leaders said. Teachers complained that the government offer was based on a variable part of the salary.

The government said last month it would increase wages for all public sector employees by 6.12% in 2020.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said he planned to talk to union leaders again later on Friday.

The cancellation of classes in the European Union member state means pupils have fallen behind schedule, putting pressure on the government to reach a deal with the teachers.

But the conservative-led government is also trying to balance the budget as part of efforts to join the euro currency zone in coming years, and faces an election late next year.

Reporting by Igor Ilic, Editing by Timothy Heritage