Teachers’ unions hold strike over pay
On 3 March 2008, teachers’ trade unions organised a strike affecting secondary schools across Lithuania, in a dispute over pay. The strike was suspended on 26 March, after parliament addressed the pay issue and a working group was set up to draw up proposals for education sector wage increases in 2008.
As previously announced (LT0802019I), teachers launched an indefinite strike across Lithuania on 3 March 2008. According to different estimates, staff at from 50 to 200 state secondary schools took part in the strike. The teachers were demanding a 50% wage increase in 2008 and measures to ensure teachers’ legal status and safety. An agreement on long-term wage increases reached in a working group formed by the government was considered unsatisfactory by most teachers, so trade unions decided to launch the strike.
Support for teachers
On the eve of the strike, the main national trade union centre – Lithuanian Trade Union Confederation (Lietuvos profesinių sąjungų konfederacija, LPSK) – expressed its support for the teachers intending to go on strike.
On 2 March, the LPSK circulated a petition stating: ‘The LPSK supports Lithuanian teachers determined to defend their rightful interests. We unreservedly support the demand to increase wages for teachers. While defending the interests of Lithuanian educational workers, we are all united by a high aim: Lithuania must restore the prestige of the teaching profession, as this is a national priority. The Lithuanian government must assign more financial resources for this genuine and leading priority than it has done. The LPSK agrees with and supports all teachers fighting for their rights. We believe that teachers’ resolution to fight, over reasonably substantiated demands, and their ability to share common goals with cultural workers and representatives of other professions paid from the public budget who today find themselves on the verge of poverty, will not be to no avail.’
Various campaigns in support of teachers were conducted throughout much of March. It appears that a large proportion of the population supported the teachers and their demands in general. It was reported in the press that teachers were not criticised by school students or their parents.
On 13 March 2008, parliament opened its summer session and quickly adopted a draft resolution on the wages of educational workers. On 20 March, consultative meetings took place among the leaders of all striking trade unions and representatives of all leading political parties. The participants discussed the level of wage increases for teachers required to ‘normalise’ the situation in the education sector and to stop the strike.
When parliament started tackling the issue of teachers’ wages and a working group formed of representatives of all political parties was set up to develop a wage increase programme for the education sector for 2008, the five unions organising the strike announced on 21 March that it would be suspended. However, union leaders said that they would resume strike action if decisions were delayed or proved unsatisfactory for teachers.
The unions announced their decision to suspend the strike in a letter to the government and parliament. They wrote: ‘Believing in the success of common sense and justice, and given that the strike is a drastic and desperate measure involving damage to students, too, we suspend the strike and resume the educational process from March 26.’
A national congress of teachers was due to be held on 12 April, at which union members were to discuss ‘new forms and methods of fighting for teachers’ welfare’.
Inga Blaziene, Institute of Labour and Social Research