EI member organisations from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) which met from 4-6 Oct in Riga for the EI CEE Round Table declared their support for their Bulgarian colleagues. EI affiliates in Bulgaria, SEB and PODKREPA, launched a nation-wide protest and indefinite strike on 24 September for better wages.
Teachers were forced to go on strike after talks with the government failed. The latter has refused to accept the unions' demands to increase the salaries of all education workers and public expenditure on education in the 2008 budget.
More than 5000 striking teachers marched to the Independence Square in Sofia on 27 September to press for a 100% pay rise in three instalments starting from 1 October. The strike is supported by more than 80% of the country's teachers. As of 4 October, 57 teachers in various parts of the country are on hunger strike.
The Balkan country of less than 8 million has the lowest incomes in the EU with GDP per capita at around a third of the bloc's average. The average monthly salary of a teacher is only 340.78 levs (174 euros). Even with a 100% salary increase, their salary would still be lower than their counterparts in neighbouring countries such as Serbia and Romania.
A new round of negotiations between teachers' unions and government failed to reach an agreement on 7 Oct. Finance Minster Plamen Oresharski said that "only if 25 per cent of teachers would be made redundant in order to optimize the educational system, teachers' salaries increases, higher than what the Cabinet proposed could be discussed".
EI strongly supports the struggle of Bulgarian teachers. "The provision of quality public education is the responsibility of the government and it should devote the necessary resources for it. This includes paying decent wages and giving decent working conditions to teachers," said EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen.
Below is the Declaration of Support, in English, dated 6th October:
The EI member organisations from Central and Eastern Europe, representing four million teachers and other education workers, meeting in Riga from 4th to 6th October, 2007,
- Demand that the Bulgarian government enter into negotiations with Trade Unions to bring to an end the strike which has disrupted the education of children for two weeks.
- Consider that the Government is in breach of its obligations under the ILO Conventions and Recommendations and the European Social Charter in refusing to engage with the Teachers Unions.
- Support teachers in their struggle for decent salaries and working conditions.