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Joint action in Croatia’s textile industry

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14 June, 2022The textile and garment industry in Croatia has dropped 20 per cent in the last five years. In a workshop in Zagreb on 8-9 June, participants from the government, employers and unions agreed that cooperation is key to securing a competitive and sustainable textile industry with a qualified workforce and decent working conditions in the country.

Croatia’s textile, garment, shoes and leather (TGSL) industries employ 22,000 workers. Attracting young workers is a major challenge; other industries offer higher wages and many young people leave for Western Europe.

The profile of the TGSL industries could be raised by focusing on innovative and high-quality products and investing in decent working conditions, better wages and career opportunities. 

Importance of well-functioning industrial relations, social dialogue and collective bargaining was highlighted by the HUP employer association and the TOKG trade union. The Austrian Economic Chamber and PRO-GE union presented their cooperation, ranging from negotiations to education and industrial policies.

Participants agreed to work together on building a winning concept for the TGSL industries in Croatia. Instead of low-cost fast fashion, it should be based on sustainable, green and technologically advanced products, in line with the European Union’s new textile strategy.

As experience from countries like Austria and Portugal shows, success requires the support of the government. The partners agreed to approach the decision-makers together with their proposals to secure coherent industrial strategies.

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said:

“Croatian employers and government representatives must be committed to promote sustainable and socially responsible businesses. Unless workers are properly paid, they will look for more attractive jobs in Croatia or elsewhere. To be truly sustainable, the industry must provide decent wages and conditions that enable workers to live with dignity.”

Luc Triangle, industriAll Europe general secretary:

“We welcome that social partners and education providers in Croatia are calling on the government to strategically focus on TCLF. The social partner now need to invest in building their own strength and capacity so that they can act together in pushing the government.”

The workshop was part of an EU-funded project, “Ensuring a sustainable future for the Southeast European textile, clothing, leather and footwear industries”, carried out in cooperation with European industry associations Euratex, Cotance and CEC, industriAll Europe and IndustriALL Global Union. The 2-year project covers Bulgaria, Croatia, North Macedonia, Romania and Serbia, where the TGSL industries employ over 400,000 workers.