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Croatian teachers threaten strike over pay, adding pressure on government

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ZAGREB (Reuters) – Around 1,500 Croatian teachers marched through Zagreb on Thursday as their union threatened a strike in search of higher pay, further pressuring a government already facing down planned strikes by transport and health care staff.

Teaching staff are seeking average rises of around 6%, say union organisers, who are due to meet Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic later on Thursday.

“It is about time for the government to act in line with its rhetoric of seeing education as a top priority in society,” said Union of Croatian Teachers leader Sanja Sprem.

Most teachers, who like transport and health workers are paid by the public sector, currently earn above Croatia’s average monthly wage of around 6,400 kuna ($960).

Croatia has run a slight budget surplus in the past two years.

Unless their demands are met, unions said on Thursday they would next week announce a date for a strike.

The new school year begins on Sept. 9, the same day that public transport unions have scheduled a strike unless the government accepts their demand for higher pay and better protection at work.

Their talks with the government have not yet been completed.

On Friday the government will also continue talks with unions representing doctors and nurses, who are seeking salary increases of at least 10 percent and have threatened to strike in coming weeks if that demand is not met.

Finance Minister Zdravko Maric said he supported higher public sector salaries, but only in line with what the budget can afford.

The government has forecast a fiscal deficit this year of 0.3% of gross domestic product. Croatia wants to return to a budget surplus in coming years as part of efforts to join the euro zone by 2024.

(Reporting by Igor Ilic; ; editing by John Stonestreet)

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