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Lithuanian teachers follow into their Latvian and Polish colleagues’ footsteps

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Protesters hold flags and banners during a peaceful protest titled “Last call” held to show solidarity with more than a thousand teachers currently striking for higher wages on December 9, 2018 in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

Teachers across the Baltics, and in Lithuania too, are clamouring for higher wages. Encouraged by teacher strikes earlier the month in Poland, also by teachers’ growing dissatisfaction with the remuneration in neighbouring Latvia, at least one influential Lithuanian teachers’ trade union said this week it does not rule out streets protests if the restarted negotiations with the Ministry of Science and Education fail to produce desired results.

Talks renewed, but demands the same

«Indeed, our trade union entered this week into talks with the ministry to discuss a range of issues that have not been addressed, or were partially tackled during teacher protests in late 2018. If we do not find a common ground, we do not rule out anything, hitting the streets too» Andrius Navickas, chairman of Lithuania’s Trade Union of Education Workers (LTUEW), told BNN.

According to him, with the economy growing, a teacher’s average wage should amount to 1,500 euros until 2022.

Prestige will come with a higher than average pay

«At the level of 1500 euros it would be an honourable pay…We see that the economy is growing and we believe that teachers should be receiving wages no less than 30 percent than the average salary in the country…We always talk that teaching should be a prestigious profession, but that will not happen if we do not remunerate teachers accordingly,» Navickas said.

He admitted he does not know today any teachers earning 1500 euros, but hopes that in 2022 the wage will be a new reality. Now the teacher’s average wage is roughly 650-800 euros in Lithuania.

Others demands

The trade-unionist has other demands too.

«We want the Ministry to increase hourly tariff of teacher’s wage, ensure that teacher wages rise at least 20 percent every year, we want to reduce the number of schoolchildren in classrooms, also agree on the principles of pre-school education and the remuneration for the work. I could go on and on (with the naming of issues),» the LTUEW leader said.

According to him, most of the demands are not new.

An unprecedented strike last year

Lithuania had introduced in 2018 a new tenure-based pay system for teachers, replacing the old system when teachers were pay for the number of classes. But in the wake of the nearly national teacher strike at the end of last year, the new system was subjected to a profound overhaul.

An unprecedented strike of Lithuanian teachers last November turned into a siege of the Education ministry -a group of around 20 teachers embedded in the edifice for nearly one month. The-then Education minister was forced to resign amid the protests.

Talks are okay, but clarity is missing

According to Navickas, it is too early to speak about any results of a restarted dialogue with the ministry.

«As far as I know, the ministry intends to meet its obligations given to us at the end of last year. I am speaking of the intent to raise teacher wages. But how much they will go up and when and who can expect the increase, it remains unclear at the point,» Navickas said.

Yet LTUEW sticks with its principle demand – teacher wages have to grow at least 20 percent every year.

Examiners have to be paid accordingly

With schools looking forward to organising school and graduate exams in June, LTUEW wants to make sure that teachers involved in evaluating of graduates’ exams are «properly» compensated for the work.

«The compensation should be a lot bigger than it is now…It is preposterous that, in some cases, teachers receive a mere 82 cents for checking an exam work…If the ministry does not respond to our demand, we will exhort teachers not to prepare and not to check exam works…»Navickas said.

400 mn euros for higher wages

If a strategy for raising pay in the Lithuanian public sector is approved, almost 400 million euros in budget funds are planned to be allocated additionally next year, Government Vice Chancellor Deividas Matulionis has said this week.

«We still have to agree on the final figures, but that would be around 200 million euros next year not including the Compulsory Health Insurance Fund and another 180 million to 190 million euros from the fund. This is a very large amount,» he told reporters.

The funds would be used to raise coefficients for some of the lowest-earning workers in certain areas and to increase the basic salary, the vice-chancellor said.

Extra funds from the state budget would allow to increase the salaries of teachers and cultural and social workers. The Compulsory Health Insurance Fund finances the salaries of doctors and nurses.

Too many legal acts, too little pay

According to Matulionis, the wage system of public sector workers is very unbalanced.

«There are 18 legal acts determining size of public sector workers‘ wages. Thence the large inconsistencies in the sector,» Matulionis emphasised.

The Government intends to raise wages around 10-15 percent for teachers, lecturers, science, culture and social workers next year. Moreover: increase them annually until 2025, pegging the workers‘ wages to the average wage in the country. The average pays is around 750 euros in Lithuania.

Teachers hit streets worldwide

Navickas, of LTUEW, says he is proud of having strong education workers’ trade unions in Lithuania.

«It definitely helps teachers achieve goals. We can see that teacher movements are on rise all over the world – from the United States, Canada to the Baltics. With so much emphasis being put on education, teachers have to get paid accordingly. Everywhere,» he underscored.


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