Over 24,000 people from the educational and science sectors took part in a one-day warning strike organised by the Latvian Trade Union of Education and Science employees (LIZDA) on 27 November.
The strike was held to show the union’s dissatisfaction over changes implemented by the Ministry of Education and Science regarding a new wage model for teachers. It also sought to highlight the government’s negative attitude towards higher education and science by not providing the necessary funds as pre-determined by law.
The current financial model based on the principle “the money follows the student” has cultivated inequality between the salary received by teachers working in rural areas and small schools and the salary received by teachers working in urban areas whilst having similar responsibilities.
A new wage model for teachers was vital to address this inequality. However, the model presented by the ministry was lacking in many other aspects and could endanger both the quality of education and the circumstances for educators. Many social partners and LIZDA highlighted the most dangerous and unacceptable aspect of the new model as its proposal to decrease salaries for teachers in larger schools and increase them for teachers in smaller schools.
Unfortunately, the Ministry did not take into consideration the suggested propositions from LIZDA and other social partners for improving the model. Social dialogue is currently at an impasse, leading to LIZDA’s decision for this one-day warning strike to push forward two demands:
1. To immediately improve wages for everyone in the education sector who currently receive inadequately low salaries, especially pre-school teachers, support staff and teachers from schools in rural areas while continuing work on developing the wage model.
2. Ensure 10 per cent of funds as required by law for higher education and science.
Inga Vanaga, Head of LIZDA, pointed out that this warning strike was not just about getting "more money for salaries to teachers and researchers, but also about the government’s attitude. The government must listen to those who work in education and science sector and respect their investment in the development of Latvian society."
This arises out of the lack of provision of a sufficient budget for higher education and science, as requested by LIZDA, in the country’s state budget for 2016 which was approved on 30 November. It remains unclear how the currently allocated funds will be used for the salaries of teachers. On 7 December, Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma announced her resignation, leading to the dissolution of the current government. Thus, it is not clear if the current Minister of Education and Science, M?r?te Seile, will continue her work.
Whether the current Minister of Education and Science will continue working or not, LIZDA hopes to return to a constructive dialogue so that the next steps in creating a fair wage model for teachers are well thought out and sustainable in the long term.