Bulgaria: Hunger Strike ends, unions remain on strike alert until demands are met
Bulgarian teachers stopped their hunger strike in December, though EI affiliates SEB and Podkrepa have refused to sign a wage agreement offered by the government and will remain on strike alert when term commences on 10 th January.
The teachers began a huger strike on 25 th November, demanding a 15% wage increase and the allocation of at least 5% of the country's GDP for education. The Bulgarian Parliament agreed the education budget in December, offering a wage increase of 4% as of 1 January 06 and 6% as of 1 July 06 – still well short of the 15% sought by the unions. Although the government has promised another wage increase towards the end of 2006, the unions want firm commitments with real figures before endorsing an agreement. SEB has learned today that another 17, mainly rural, public schools in the region of Burgas will be closed. There is concern that the lack of public transport in the winter will deprive many children of education. Over the past 10 years, the Bulgarian government has closed over 1500 schools and kindergartens , making over 13,000 teachers and 8,000 non-teaching personnel redundant. SEB and Podkrepa are grateful for the support letters from many European and non-European unions ; "International support meant a lot to the striking teachers," says Kounka Damianova, international secretary of SEB. Education International remains committed to the cause of Bulgarian teachers and encourages affiliates to continue to support SEB and Podkrepa. Elie Jouen, Deputy General Secretary of Education International, will meet with union representatives and government officials in Bulgaria on 3-4 February.