• October 3, 2023
  • 206

Teachers continue to protest. “Lesson of civic attitude” at the government headquarters

Several thousand teachers in Lithuania on Friday, September 29, began an indefinite strike. “It was a difficult decision, but we will not back down” – say educators belonging to the Lithuanian Education Employees’ Trade Union.

On Friday, 3,000 teachers in 185 educational institutions went on strike. Teachers in front of the government headquarters organized a “lesson of civic attitude”. “Such lessons will be held here for a month. Teachers will protest in schools and organise marches on foot to Vilnius from various Lithuanian cities, some will spend the night here” – announced Andrius Navickas, president of the Lithuanian Education Employees’ Trade Union (LŠDPS).

The teachers continued to strike on Monday, October 2nd.

Higher wages, better working conditions

The nationwide strike began after the trade union, to which they belong, failed to reach an agreement with the RL Ministry of Education, Science and Sport. This is primarily about wages and working conditions. The teachers are demanding a 20 per cent increase in salaries from September this year and another 30 per cent from January next year, as well as a reduction in class sizes.

The government says it is unable to raise teachers’ salaries this year and plans to do so in two stages next year. The proposal is for a 21 per cent pay rise for teachers next year: 10 per cent from September and the remaining 11 per cent from January.

On foot to the capital

At 8 a.m. on Friday, a group of 25 teachers set off on foot from Jezioros to Vilnius to join their colleagues on strike in Kudirki Square. By Monday morning, after an overnight march, they were already in the Uciana area.

– Teachers from Visaginas, Onikszt, Uciana are coming. On our way to Vilnius we still have to cover about 90 km, we are planning to reach the capital on the eve of Teachers’ Day – announces Andrius Navickas, president of the trade union organising the strike, who is marching with the teachers, in an interview with “Kurier Wileński”.

The interlocutor notes that teachers are not satisfied with many points in the agreement proposed by the Ministry of Education and Science.

– As for the government’s proposed increases, they are negligible, considering the increase in inflation. Besides, there is a lack of specifics in the agreement, and after all, the government has been considering for three years the issues of wage increases, the reduction of student numbers and many other issues in the education system. Our main demands remain the same as before – a teacher’s salary should be 130 per cent of the average monthly national salary, currently, this amount is 95 per cent, there should be fewer students in classes, and teachers must have a smaller workload – Navickas points out.

Vilnius is also on strike

Teachers from nearly 30 educational institutions in the capital, including Polish schools, are participating in the strike.

– There has been a trade union in our secondary school for years, which belongs to the Lithuanian Education Employees’ Trade Union, led by Andrius Navickas. We live in a democratic country, where teachers also have the right to express their opinions on the problems that are currently in the education system. On September 29, 34 of our teachers, and we have about 90 of them, participated in the strike.  This number fluctuates. On Monday, there were 38 strikers, and only 9 people announced their participation in the strike on 9 October – Helena Marcinkiewicz, headmistress of the Władysław Syrokomla Secondary School in Vilnius, tells “Kurier Wileński”.

The situation is changing

Someone joins and someone resigns from the strike.

– We, as a school, try to ensure that the teaching process continues at the school despite the strike. According to the current Labour Code, no other educator can replace their striking colleague and conduct lessons for them. So we try to take care of the children so that they do not sit idle during the lesson without a teacher. We conduct educational classes, sports classes, and watch preventive films. We hope that our teachers’ union manages to reach an agreement with the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports of the RL as soon as possible, as the financial issue is also important here. A striking teacher will not be paid for days when he or she is not at school – Helena Marcinkiewicz points out.

Agreement with four trade unions

On September 28, the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports of the RL reached an agreement with four trade unions on their demands. An agreement was reached with the Lithuanian Trade Union of Education and Science, the Trade Union of Education and Science “Solidarumas”, the Association of Lithuanian Trade Unions of Higher Education, and the Lithuanian Trade Union “Sandrauga”. “We have reached an agreement with four of the five trade unions and will continue to push for an agreement. All parties have taken steps towards a constructive solution, for which I am grateful” – said Gintautas Jakštas, head of the ministry.

The only trade union to withdraw from negotiations and go on strike is the Lithuanian Education Employees’ Trade Union.

Vilnius City Government has issued a strike permit, according to which up to 2,000 people can take part in protests each day until October 28. The latest data conducted by Vilmorus shows that almost 60 per cent of the public supports the teachers’ strike.

Translated by Katarzyna Korniak within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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