news 12 Oct 12

Croats Demonstrate Against Spending Cuts

About ten thousand Croatian teachers, university professors and nurses demonstrated on Thursday in Zagreb against austerity measures and cuts in wages and healthcare.

Boris Pavelic

"You betrayed us" and "You protect the wealthy" were among the angry slogans held up at the protest in Zagreb organised by the union of public service workers.

The protest was staged after the centre-left government recently cancelled a collective agreement for public-sector wages and cut salaries.

"Government policy suits only the financial sector. They are not interested in workers and ordinary people's problems," union leader Vilim Ribic said at the protest as the crowd whistled and shouted.

"You have betrayed the Social Democratic Party and it's members. You betrayed the workers and their rights like the cruellest capitalists," Anica Prasnjak, another union leader, said in a message sent to the government.

The Social Democrat Prime Minister, Zoran Milanovic, denied the claims. "Nothing can be gained through noise. Our decisions are tough but necessary," he said in a message.

"I call on everyone to take responsibility. What we have, we have, but what we don't have - we don't have", said Milanovic, talking about the need to reduce wages.

Commentators agreed that the protest showed the government faced a serious test of its popularity and resolution.

"The time for social peace and dialogue is over," Jelena Lovric, the columnist of Croatian Jutarnji list, wrote after the protest.

"The first serious anti-government demonstrations in Milanovic's mandate showed that the social dissatisfaction is very high, and that it could be overflow into the streets," she wrote.


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