Doctors, dentists in Croatia go on one-day strike demanding salary hikes

Canadian Press, Friday 28 June 2002, 12:26 PM EST

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP)—Doctors and dentists employed in the public sector went on a one-day strike across Croatia Friday, demanding pay hikes of over double the average salary.

As many as 13,000 doctors and dentists were believed to take part in the strike which started at 7 a.m. local time and was to end at 3 p.m., a statement from the Croatian Physicians' Union said.

Doctors said medical care and treatment of patients would not be neglected during the strike, suggesting strikers were taking turns to ensure adequate staffing. But patients with minor health problems were advised to cancel their appointments, the statement said.

The average monthly wage in Croatia is about 3,500 kuna (the equivalent of about $720 Cdn), while doctors and dentists earn about 4,500 kuna ($934 Cdn). The Physicians' Union was demanding minimum hikes from 7,000 kuna ($1,450 Cdn) for first-year graduates to 9,000 ($1,850 Cdn) for specialists.

Health Minister Andro Vlahusic said the government flatly rejects the demands and would not cave in to the strike which it branded illegal according to current labour legislation.

The union did not specify any further steps.

Croatia has embarked on a wave of economic reforms since a Western-oriented coalition took power from the late authoritarian President Franjo Tudjman's nationalists two years ago.

Tens of thousands of workers have lost their jobs in recent months, and the drop in living standards has triggered labour unrest and a spate of strikes.