- December 29, 2015
Educational trade unions are still threatening with strike
In connection with the January strike declared by the trade unions, yesterday, on 28 December, vice-chancellor of the Government, former Minister of Education Rimantas Vaitkus met with the trade unions representatives. He tried to convince the teachers that the strike is groundless and the teachers’ work conditions are getting better. The trade unions representatives are trying to negotiate their demands – restoration of the 2009 educational funding plan. After the strikes that took place on 8 and 10 December 2015, the budget accounted for the partially increased funding, but is it still not satisfactory.
According to the vice-chancellor, the demands of the organisors of the teachers’ strike are of political nature. „In reality, it is an early election trick – said vice-chancellor Vaitkus – the state has responded to the demands of the trade unions, the pensions, funding for children and other things are rising. Currently, after the acceptance of the budget, we can only talk about an effective use of funding – primarly the optimisation of the number of teachers, consolidation of schools”. In his opinion, part of the money can be obtained after considering the educaton control system and ensuring the quality of education. „We will consider specific projects and the financing of the School Assessment Agency, Development and Upbringing Centre and other institutions subordinate to the Ministry of Education and Science” – claimed Rimantas Vaitkus. Audrius Jurgelevičius, the leader of the Educational Trade Union in Lithuania (ETUL) said that educational trade unions are not resigning from their demands. He informed that the Monday talk of the representatives of the trade unions with the vice-chancellor was turbulent.
– The debate was heated, we agreed on the fact that there is no possibility to change the already approved budget – said Audrius Jurgelevičius. During the discussion we mentioned the opinion of the representatives of trade unions who claim that there is no need for additional funding to meet the demans of the teachers, but money for the financing of the education system just needs to be allocated differently. According to the union men, the money has been used ineffectively. Trade unions state that funding can be used effectively by means of optimisation or reorganisation of schools subordinate to the Ministry of Education and Science.
„Giving out coursebooks – it is money laundering, there are several dozen openings at the Ministry, of course we also need to start mentioning the facilities subordinate to the Ministry which activity is difficult to understand. Besides that, using funding from the European Union: several dozen of millions is allocated for improvement of the quality of education which is getting worse year after year.” said Jurgelevičius for the BNS agency.
On a Monday’s meeting, vice-chancellor Vaitkus said that the govermnetal programme assumes consolidation of all schools.
– That means that the schools which were being torn apart for 15 years are trying to unite in one legal entity. We are sceptical towards this idea, but if it is going to have a positive educational and economical impact, we are willing to consider the proposition – said the leader of ETUL.
According to Jurgelevičius, the representatives of the government and the Ministry were not prepared to „talk in the language of numbers”, in effect a decision has been made to present all the revelant data on a second meeting on 14 January.
– It will become clear to what extend the government can and is willing to approve our requests – said the chairman Jurgelevičius. – If the demands are not considered, we will go on strike. The leader of the Educational Facilities Trade Union in Lithuania Eugenijus Jesinas criticised the government which manipulates the numbers of the amount of salary the teachers get.
„Apparently, the goal is to set the society against the teachers on strike – what do they want if they earn so much? Meanwhile, I said to Vaitkus that the teachers earn 321 euros per month on average which is not even a minimal wage since from the New Year the minimal wage increased to 350 euros. What does it mean? How is that prestigious? How can we attract young people to become a teacher? – Jesinas asked.
The government approved the changes in the method of granting the student funding. From 1 January 2016 the funding will be 1 014 euro. From 1 January the salaries for all teachers will rise. For the teachers with the smallest salaries – kindergarten teachers – there will be a 7% rise. For the young teachers in high schools there will be a 5% rise, all other teachers will get 3% more. According to Audrius Jurgelevičius, the teachers’ demands are responded to in „a small part” which is not satisfactory for the unions.
– Considering the fact that we can see the possiblity for our demands to be fulfilled by the state without the increase of funding for education which is what the government also admits – he claimed. – Our strike is only a desperate move.
Translated by Katarzyna Kosińska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.