Education International
Education International

Macedonian teachers strike to back collective bargaining rights

published 25 November 2008 updated 25 November 2008

Members of the Autonomous Trade Union of Education, Science and Culture of the Republic of Macedonia (SONK) went on strike 24 November after the government reneged on its earlier commitments in collective agreements for both elementary and secondary education.

The Ministry of Education and Science earlier agreed that salary increases negotiated in the latest round of collective bargaining would enter into force beginning 1 January 2009. However, now the Ministry proposes to delay implementation until 1 January 2010, a move that is unacceptable to the teachers.

The teachers believe that the Ministry’s action is in violation of a recent ruling by the Constitutional Court. In addition, discrepancies in pay hikes favouring some teachers over others, disputes over food and transportation bonuses for employees in the public sector, and other issues also factored into the teachers’ decision to take strike action.

Education International has expressed full support for its member organisation SONK, and is urging the government of Macedonia to return to the negotiating table and engage in constructive dialogue to resolve the outstanding issues. The statement(in English) from EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen is below:

Autonomous Trade Union of Education, Science and Culture of Republic of Macedonia, SONK MESSAGE OF SOLIDARITY WITH THE EDUCATION, SCIENCE AND CULTURE WORKERS OF FYR MACEDONIA

Dear Dojcin, Dear colleagues:

Education International, the voice of teachers worldwide, stands in solidarity with your struggle for quality public education and improvement of the status of teachers.

Workers in the education, science and culture sectors deserve the implementation of the negotiated wage increase as soon as possible: meaning January 2009.

Social dialogue is a unique and indispensable component of the European social model. It is however important that the, in this case, bipartite dialogue between the trade union organisation and the public authorities is based on trust, good faith and accountability. Earlier this year, SONK was proud to report to Pan European colleagues that it had signed a Memorandum on collective agreement and later that SONK had negotiated new collective agreements for primary and secondary education workers. Now, unfortunately, we hear that the Government is not living up to its commitment and announces it will postpone the implementation of the wage increase to the 1st of January 2010! The Government also refuses now to increase the amounts of the food and transportation bonuses for employees in the public sector.

Governments have to acknowledge the economic and professional needs of teachers: teacher training, adequate remuneration in recognition of professional status and the job teachers do – there is no work that is more important than educating our young ones, the citizens of tomorrow. The working conditions of education workers in FYR Macedonia are not easy. Student-teacher ratios at both the primary and secondary levels are higher than among other countries in the region.

The ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers states in paragraph 115 that "Teachers' salaries should: (a) reflect the importance to society of the teaching function and hence the importance of teachers as well as the responsibilities of all kinds which fall upon them from the time of their entry into the service; (b) compare favourably with salaries paid in other occupations requiring similar or equivalent qualifications."

Dear colleagues, Education International and its 30 million members support your efforts to maintain the dialogue with the Government on behalf of teachers and public education in FYR Macedonia.

Best wishes in your endeavours.

Sincerely yours, Fred van Leeuwen General Secretary