About the Union
"A police officer is gossiped about by the public, criticized by storytellers, derided in movies, mocked in the papers... He receives no support from public attorneys or judges, he is avoided by those who fear him, hated by criminals, cheated by everyone, and kicked around like a football by stupid, corrupt politicians. He is put in many tempting and dangerous situations, judged when he does things by the book and fired when he doesn't. He is supposed to have the education of a soldier, a doctor, a lawyer, a diplomat and a day-care teacher, all the while being paid less than a wage worker."
(According to Morris and Hawkins)
The Police Union of Croatia was founded on August 24th 1999 in Zagreb in the 5th Police Precinct "Medveščak". The Police Union was founded as an independent, apolitical association of employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and was the first union founded within the Ministry. At the founding assembly, Dubravko Jagić was elected president and given support by his colleagues to organize and form a union that would, for the first time in Croatian history, protect the interests of police officers. The foundation of this sort union was not received warmly by the then-government members and Internal Minister. For the first time, a union was formed with the intention to protect the interests of those employed at the Ministry in a consistent and thorough way, without the possibility of the union to be influenced by any person or political party.
Status of the employees of the Ministry of the Interior before the foundation of the Police Union
In the second half of the 1990's, the status of those employed by the Ministry of the Interior was becoming more difficult. Whilst other civil services and society in general was returning back to normal after the war, the workers at the Ministry of the Interior were still working as if in war conditions – the wages were low and there was no remuneration for working in rough conditions. The society was showing less gratitude for the work the police was doing and the profession was losing dignity.
In founding the Police Union, we received support and help only from the Association of Workers' Unions of Croatia and its president at the time Mr Boris Kunst. This was the main reason why upon foundation the Police Union of Croatia joined the Association of Workers' Unions of Croatia as its umbrella association.
After the foundation, there were attempts to shut down the Police Union by certain leading people in the Ministry of the Interior. Pressures were made on anyone who had the courage to join the Union and help its work.
Realising there were political threats trying to thwart the work of the Union, we asked for the support of Mr Herman Feiner, the president of EUROFEDOP, The European Federation of Public Service Employees, of which both the Association of Workers' Union of Croatia and the Police Union were members. By coming to Croatia, Mr Feiner gave his full support to the Police Union of Croatia and its independence of the state and the employer.
A month after the foundation of our Union, another union was founded - "NSD MUP-a", Independent Union of Employees of the Ministry of the Interior. It had all the necessary prerequisites for work - because it was started by the employer - as well as many members, who joined either under pressure from the management or because they knew their direct superiors were members or activists in it.
In the autumn of 1999 branches of the Police Union of Croatia were founded in several Police Administrations: PA Istarska, PA Splitsko-dalmatinska, PA Zadarska and PA Ličko-senjska. At the end of 1999, the Union had around 2000 members.
Throughout 2001, the new management and Minister of the Interior Šime Lučin showed their true colours. Despite promises, the systematization was done unprofessionally and it led to the firing of 3500 police officers. Workers' pays were being cut whilst those in managing positions were being given pay rises. The unfortunate systematization destroyed all hope that someone would care about the welfare of the employees of the Ministry, whose working conditions were now the worst since Croatia's independence. The only people determined to fight for the wellbeing of police officers, as well as all other employees of the Ministry, were the Police Union of Croatia. More employees recognized that and by the end of 2001, the Union had 5500 members.
Thanks to the Union's activities and work immediately after May 3rd 2001, a big number of our members got their jobs back, and an additional number still in the following period.
We co-ordinated certain actions and organized successful protests, one of which was the protest by the special police forces in front of the PA Vukovarsko-srijemska. At the end of 2001, high school students training to become police officers organized a protest because the Ministry of the Interior unilaterally nullified their signed work contracts and decided not to hire them after graduation. The epilogue was another job well done by the Union: after reaching a new agreement, the protest was ended and in 2002 all trainees were employed.
On 1st August 2001 in Bizovac a new statute of the Police Union of Croatia was agreed upon and adopted. This was necessary due to the rising membership and leadership of the Union.
At the end of 2001 the Police Union had reached 6700 members.
On 15th December 2001 an electoral assembly was held and Dubravko Jagić was again voted president. The same assembly also elected the vice president and deputies, as well as the secretary of the Union.
In 2000 the Union signed the first collective contract for police officers and civil servants, which proved vital to the improvement of the financial and employment status of the Ministry's employees.
After three months of negotiations, on 13th December 2001 the Union signed its first collective contract, which is still valid today.
Despite the initial intention the Ministry had to not abide by the contract and to not pay overtime, the Union immediately started pressuring the Ministry and the Croatian government demanding the collective contract be fully abided by. As a result, the Ministry was forced, for the first time since Croatia's independence, to pay its employees for work on the weekends, national holidays, shift work, etc.
Towards the end of 2001, after we had made repeated requests for employee jubilee awards, we have managed to persuade the state to pay them for 2001 and from then on the payments have been regular and timely. Furthermore, also in 2001, we reached the first agreement on the amounts for baby- and Christmas bonuses, which were paid in the amount of 250 kuna, and were later increased. In 2003 the baby bonus was 400 kuna and the Christmas bonus 1000 kuna.
During 2002, the Union won the first law suit filed in the name of its members, the subjects of which were: non-payment of overtime, non-payment for work in remote areas, lack of Christmas bonuses for 2000 and refunds for purchase of plain-clothes suits. We employed our resources and means so that as many of our members as possible could take legal action, with the aid of the Union's lawyers, and recover what the state owed them – a debt incurred because the government failed to abide by its own laws, as well as the collective contracts it had signed.
The Union succesfully created a positive image amongst Ministry employees and the Croatian public, so more and more members joined the Union and during 2001 and 2002 more branches were founded. In December 2002, with the foundation of the PA Međimurska branch, the Police Union of Croatia was officially present in all Police Administrations as well as the Ministry headquarters. At the end of 2002, we had 7800 members.
On 19th December 2002, with the Annex to the Collective Agreement for Civil Servants and Employees, the term "shift work" was introduced to the Agreement for the first time and a 5 % addition to the wage for shift work was agreed upon. Also, the Annex increased time off to a maximum of 30 days per year.
By signing the Annex, the Union proved to be up to the task as an equal partner to the govenment of the Republic of Croatia. In 2003 we signed an agreement which enabled Ministry employees to receive 600 Kuna in recourses, whilst the following year the recourses increased to 1000 Kuna. We also managed to secure a 4.3% increase in calculation basis for wages for 2004 and onwards.
Other Unions at the time called us traitors, later signing the Annex themselves.
As a comment on the lawsuits filed against the Interior Ministry over denied material rights, the Independent Union of Ministry Employees said we were "sawing off the branch we were sitting on".
During 2003 the Police Union's reputation and influence rose, leading to succesful fights against scare tactics, bullying and degradation of police officers. Previously, police officers had almost no protection by the Interior Ministry; legal protection and statutory powers were almost non-existant, and the tiniest of police errors were cause for "witch hunt". All of this considered, and given how badly equiped the officers were, it was only a matter of time before officers became targets of severe criminal attacks.
The severity of these, numerous, attacks resulted in tragic events: the deaths of our colleagues Vranjković, Murk and others.
The Police Union of Croatia, warning of the increasing number of attacks, managed to prompt changes in the Croatian Penal Code, which introduced a life sentence for police killers and increased penalties for all forms of criminal acts against police officers. We also criticized the courts for the mild convictions of police attackers.
In the wake of the tragic deaths of our colleges we organized humanitarian fundraisers to help their families. The fundraiser for Mr Vranjkovic's family raised 130.000 kuna. After Mr Murk was killed, we organized a 15 minute work halt with full participation from police officers throughout Croatia.
The Union now has over 13.000 paying members, with the membership continually on the rise, and it is the most numerous and influential Union not only within the Ministry of the Interior, but in all of Croatian civil service. Our members currently enjoy free legal aid in employment-related legal cases, members of their families are entitled to a one-off financial aid sum on certain occasions (birth of child, illness, death in the family). There are different gift-giving event at Christmas, Easter and St. Nicholas' Day and we have agreements with several shops where our employes can purchase goods at special prices.
The Police Union of Croatia needs to continue to make sure all those employed at the Ministry of the Interior are adequatly compensated for their work, well equipped, legally protected, well trained and have secure positions.
Our goals are better working conditions, higher wages for all Interior employees, both police officers and civil servants and clerks, and excellence, merits and abilities as the only criteria for being promoted.
Our primary goals have stayed the same from the beginning and will not change – our members, Ministry of the Interior employees are the are most important to us and our mission is to keep them satisfied.
Our immediate priorities are: signing a new collective agreement; signing branch collective agreements; changing the provision on wage calculation index based on the complexity of police officers' and civils servants' work; an increase of 30% to the wage calculation index; introducing wage addendums for customer work; equipping police officers with new equipment and uniforms; refurbishing employee work spaces; legally definiting the so-called "blank spaces" of what Ministry employment entails, such as being on call passively; and suppressing further punishment of police officers without valid reason in disciplinary courts.