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Croatia

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers to form or join unions of their choice, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The government generally respected these rights. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and allows unions to challenge firings in court. The law requires reinstatement of workers terminated for union activity.

Some limitations exist. There are restrictions on strikes and union activity for civilian employees of the military. Workers may strike only at the end of a contract or in specific circumstances cited in the contract, and only after completing mediation. Labor and management must jointly agree on a mediator if a dispute goes to mediation. If a strike is found to be illegal, any participant may be dismissed and the union held liable for damages.

The government and employers generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. The government was generally effective in enforcing laws, including imposing penalties of one to 15 years’ imprisonment. Penalties were sufficient to deter violations. Judicial procedures were lengthy, with frequent delays. The inefficiency of the court system hampered attempts to seek redress for antiunion discrimination and legal violations.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The state prosecutor reported no incidents of forced labor in 2017.

Penalties for conviction of forced labor, one to 15 years’ imprisonment, were sufficiently stringent to deter violations, if enforced, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. The government collaborated with several NGOs on public awareness programs.

There were isolated reports that Romani children were at risk of forced begging. Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. The minimum age for the employment of children is 15, the age at which compulsory education ends for most children. Minors between ages 15 and 18, who have not completed compulsory education, may work only with prior approval from the government labor inspectorate and only if they would not suffer physically or mentally from the work. Children younger than 15 may work only in special circumstances and with the approval of the ombudsperson for children. In 2017 (the last year for which data were available), there were 233 such requests, of which 183 were approved, usually for children to act in film or theatrical performances. The law prohibits workers younger than age 18 from working overtime, at night, or in dangerous conditions, including but not limited to construction, mining, and work with electricity. The Ministry of Labor and the Pension System; the ministry’s Office of the State Inspectorate; and the ombudsperson for children are responsible for enforcing this regulation and did so adequately.

There were isolated instances of violations of child labor legislation. Labor inspectors identified 34 violations in 2017 involving 21 minors. Violations involved minors working overtime or past curfew and occurred mainly in the hospitality, retail, services, food service, and tourism sectors. Some children were reportedly subject to early marriage that could result in domestic servitude (see section 6, Children). Penalties were generally sufficient to deter violations.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation. Nonetheless, discrimination in employment or occupation occurred with regard to gender, disability, sexual orientation, HIV-positive status, and ethnicity, particularly for Roma. According to the ombudsperson for gender equality, women experienced discrimination in employment, including in pay and promotion to managerial and executive positions. Women generally held lower-paying positions in the workforce. The 2017 report of the ombudsperson for gender equality noted women’s salaries averaged 88.7 percent of men’s salaries, and that the wage gap was higher in the public sector than the private sector. Eurostat reported the wage gap was higher among older employees. Penalties for violation of employment discrimination laws were light, and the government inconsistently applied the law.

The ombudsperson for disabilities noted progress in 2017 regarding employment of persons with disabilities but said the government should take additional steps to reduce workplace discrimination and barriers to employment.

NGOs noted discrimination and harassment against LGBTI employees in the workplace, particularly in the health and hospitality sectors. According to the NGO Freedom House, although legislation protects LGBTI employees against discrimination at the workplace, employers did not have adequate policies and procedures in place to provide for protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. NGOs reported LGBTI persons sometimes refrained from publicly expressing their sexual orientation or gender identity because they were vulnerable to termination of employment or demotion.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The government effectively enforced wage laws, and penalties were sufficient to deter violations. Minimum wage was slightly above official poverty income level. The law limits overtime to 10 hours per week and 180 hours annually.

The government set health and safety standards to harmonize with EU laws and regulations. Responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remains with occupational safety and health experts and not the worker.

The Office of the Labor Inspectorate enforced the labor law through on-site inspections. According to the 2017 Labor Inspectorate Annual Report, there were 236 inspectors, sufficient to enforce compliance. The inspectorate conducted 32,393 workplace inspections in 2017 (up 10 percent from 2016) and reported 6,211 violations of labor laws (up 6 percent from 2016). The inspectorate referred 2,547 of these violations (up 8 percent from 2016) to misdemeanor courts for further action, and it temporarily closed 308 companies (up 6 percent from 2016) during the first six months of the year for labor law violations. The inspectorate issued fines for labor violations, which it deemed sufficient to deter future violations. Nonsafety violations of labor law were most common in the hospitality sector.

Some employees worked in the informal sector without labor protections. There were instances of nonpayment of wages, as well as nonpayment for overtime and holidays. The law allows employees to sue employers for wage nonpayment and provides a penalty of up to three years in prison for convicted employers, although the law exempts employers who fail to pay wages due to economic duress. Workers may sue employers who do not issue pay slips to their employees to bypass mandatory employer contributions to social insurance programs. During 2017 inspectors filed 115 reports (down 14 percent from 2016) for criminal proceedings against employers for nonpayment of wages or for not registering employees properly with state health and pension insurance.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future