From 3-4 Feb, EI Deputy General Secretary, Elie Jouen, met with afiliates, the "Syndicat des Enseignants Bulgares" (SEB) and "Syndicat des Enseignants" (PODKREPA). Last november, both teacher unions had to take very difficult actions in the form of an enduring hunger strike in front of the Ministry of Education to protest for better wages and an increase in education budget. Many EI affiliates also showed their support.
To continue the fight, SEB organised a high-level meeting under the auspices of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria (CITUB) between the Minister of Finance, Minister of Education, a representative from the Ministry of Work, the President of the Education Commission of the Bulgarian Parliament, a representative from the World Bank in Bulgaria, as well as Elie Jouen, EI Deputy General Secretary. Several questions that were part of the teacher unions' demands were once again debated: salary according to merits, teachers' living and working conditions, school programmes in the framework of education reform, teacher evaluation, teacher training and in-service training, and education budget. With regard to education budget, Elie Jouen pointed out that the Bulgarian education budget of 4.2% is way below the European average of 5.9% of a country's GNP. Hence without an increase in the education budget, none of the teacher unions' demands could be met. According to SEB president Janka Takeva, a confidential agreement was signed between international financial institutions and the Bulgarian government to limit its education budget to 4.2% until 2010 at the earliest. Unless teacher unions succeed in lobbying against this agreement or if the country's GNP increase dramatically, Bulgarian teachers and Bulgarian education would remain in its critical state.