Educators and science employees took to the streets of Riga Monday to demand additional state financing for effective education reforms.
Education International’s national affiliate, the Latvian Trade Union of Education and Science Employees (LIZDA), is seeking extra education financing to secure decent pay for its members.
The union says it is dissatisfied with the current financing model, “Money follows the child,” during the 12 May protest. According to LIZDA, this model does not ensure decent and motivating salaries for educators or provide equal rights for all the children to obtain quality education.
At the same time, in the 2015–2017 national budget, additional funds for the approval and introduction of a new financing model and an increase in educators’ salaries have not been planned. This year, there is a shortage of €2.5 million for educators’ salaries, according to LIZDA.
The trade union is urging public authorities to guarantee remuneration for work undertaken by all educators and academic staff. The latest LIZDA investigation shows that the state currently does not reimburse educators for an average of 18 hours of work per week, owing them €341.28 per month.
Pay must equal EU average
In Latvia, the cost of living is increasing; at the same time, remuneration for educators and science employees continues to be one of the lowest in the EU. In light of this, LIZDA has maintained its demand to the Government for payment for at least 18 hours per week. In addition, along with social partners in Latvia, it has sought a schedule for an increase in educators’ salaries at all levels in the coming years. The latter would ensure a 10 per cent increase per year until the average educators’ salary level in the European Union has been reached.
On 17 March, the Education and Science Ministry began to design a new remuneration system for the educators and a schedule for increasing their salaries. This should be completed on 15 May. Even if this is achieved, LIZDA maintains that there is no guarantee that additional financing will be found to implement the new payments.
However, Education and Science Minister, Ina Druviete, has reassured educators that the required €2.5 million for their salaries will be found. The Education Ministry is preparing an information report for the government, she said.
She went on to say that she understands the situation and supports the trade union in its actions to defend its members’ interests. “I have been a trade union member for 30 years and know how influential this organisation is,” she said.
Government must listen to educators’ demands
LIZDA President Ingrida Mikisko said that it was important to express educators’ dissatisfaction with the current situation. Not doing so would be a silent approval of the status quo. “Educators are making demands to which the government must urgently respond because our patience has been exhausted,” she said.
According to an investigation from the TNS polling agency, 71 per cent of economically active inhabitants of Latvia support the educators’ demands for a salary increase.
Martin Rømer, Director of EI’s European region, the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE), was in Riga and had a separate meeting with the Education Minister to back up LIZDA claims. During in the demonstration, Martin Rømer gave a speech supporting the specific claims for higher salary and noted “that the Government knows the address where to send the money disappearing since 2009.”
“Quality educators, together with quality teaching and learning environments and tools, are keys to quality education,” he said. “And educators should be provided with salaries and working conditions which encourage them to stay in their jobs and allow them to focus totally on their teaching activities and not have to worry about the cost of living or their working conditions.”