Kosovo: education union and government take steps towards reconciliation
After meeting with the education minister for the first time since teachers went on strike in April, the Union of Education, Science and Culture of Kosova is hopeful that the government honours the 2014 collective agreement.
When the government failed to honour the collective agreement reached with the Union of Education, Science and Culture of Kosova (SBASHK) in April of last year, which included a pay increase of 0.5 percent for every year of service, teachers responded in force by unanimously striking on the 24 and 25 of April this year. Yesterday marked the first time union officials and the education minister, Arsim Bajrami, met since the labour action.
During the meetings, which also included an Education International (EI) delegation, in Prishtina from the 3 to 4 June, Minister Bajram isaid that SBASHK is consulted on all aspects of the school system and education policies. He also said that the government wants to adjust education programmes as to ensure a better transition to the labour market.
Education International General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen urged the Minister to implement all provisions of the agreement. He also requested that the nine years of severe repression by the Milosowich regime, during which thousands of teachers worked in clandestine schools, also be counted for these teachers' pension rights.
Van Leeuwen noted that compared to neighbouring countries, which spend approximately 6 percent of their GDP on education, Kosovo's education budget, which amounts to 3.9 percent of the country's GDP, is not adequate. The European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) Vice President Walter Dresscher, also taking part in the EI delegation, stressed the importance of further improving the professional status of the Kosovar teachers, as well as giving them the professional freedom to ensure quality schooling for each individual child.
The SBASHK President Rrahman Jasharajand General Secretary Jehona Oruci told the delegation that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) representatives who had met with them earlier this year had promised the union that they would recommend that the government increase the education budget. In response, Jasharaj said that "we are the largest and most active union in the country. We are determined to improve the conditions of employment of teachers and thus enhance education quality, preferably through social dialogue but if necessary by industrial action".
The SBASHK represents more than 20,000 teachers and education support staff employed in all parts of the education system.