The Latvian Trade Union of Education and Science Employees (LIZDA) has organised a warning strike in front of the National Parliament building in Riga to show their rejection of the government’s budget proposal on the minimum teachers’ salary.
On 24 October, LIZDA called on MPs to support teachers, university personnel and researchers’ demands to increase the education and research budget for 2014 and the following years.
LIZDA’s demands include:
• Increasing teachers’ monthly salaries to 310 Latvian lats (LVL) (equivalent to €442) in 2014
• Increasing teachers’ salaries in 2015 and 2016
• Providing funding for higher education in accordance with normative regulations (annual increase of over 0.25 per cent of GDP)
• Providing funding for research in accordance with normative regulations (annual increase over 0.15 per cent of GDP)
Funding needed for quality education
“For many years, LIZDA members have been standing up and working for quality education in preschool, general, special, vocational, professionally-oriented and higher education, and research,” said LIZDA President Ingr?da Mikiško. “However, this time we must warn the government, Parliament and society that we cannot provide high quality education without proper funding.”
Around 2,000 education and science employees have shown their disapproval of the government’s budget proposal to increase the minimum monthly teacher salary from 280 LVL (€398) to 295 LVL (€420), as they believe this is not in keeping with the increasingly high qualifications requested from teachers.
Compared to a general minimum salary increase to 225 LVL (€320), a teacher’s salary is not commensurate with the demanding nature of the work and stressful working conditions. And it undermines the quality of teaching and decent work in education, Mikiško highlighted.
The government has not planned any funding increase for higher education and research, he deplored. This will have a negative impact on the sector, considering that higher education funding has decreased by 55 per cent and research funding by 67 per cent.
She went on to say that, given that existing legislation allows for increased public funding for education and research, the Government is clearly not respecting parliamentary decisions and national legislation. Besides, the Government is also going against recommendations adopted by the European Commission (2012) and the World Bank (2011) concerning the development of education and research in Latvia.
Quality of education undermined
“In order to survive, education and research employees have to do overtime and increase their workload, which puts an extra burden on education workers’ health and, in the long term, might well have a negative impact on the quality of education,” Mikiško emphasised.
The educators’ strike has been supported by the Latvian Free Trade Union Confederation.
“Decent working and living conditions for teachers are vital to guarantee quality in education,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “Public authorities in Latvia hold the responsibility for ensuring an adequate funding of the education system to ensure free public quality education for all. We urge the Government to engage in a dialogue with organisations representing education personnel.”