Controversy re-emerges in education
Not having been granted the pay rise as promised, employees in education submitted an open letter to the Prime Minister in February 2005. Though the answer was not a favourable one, trade unions continue to defend their claims and request an immediate resolution of the issue.
The dispute that arose in education during 2004 RO0405101N, RO0410103F was eventually smoothed out and the general strike was called off. On 23 November 2004, on the eve of the general elections RO0501103F, trade unions announced they were calling off the strike for the time being. At the time, the government had committed itself to ensure an average 17% pay-rise for 2005, higher than in the case of other categories of state employees. The state budget for 2005 provided for a 12% pay increase to state employees in two stages (January and October).
However, after 1 January 2005, the approximately 400,000 employees in the education system were not granted the promised pay rise. The new government’s justification was lack of available funds in the budget approved by the former ruling party, but it maintained that the introduction of the flat tax RO0310102F, RO0501103F had raised teachers’ wages by 5-6%.
Furthermore, the new Prime Minister accused teaching staff of tax evasion as a result of not declaring earnings from private tutoring and on 7 February he declared that 'there are other issues in education besides wages that need to be discussed, such as reform and work quotas, as in his opinion teaching staff work quotas are extremely relaxed'.
Under the circumstances, in early February 2005, three trade union federations - the Federation of Free Trade Unions in the Education Sector (Federaţia Sindicatelor Libere din Învăţământ, FSLI), the Spiru Haret Federation (Federaţia Spiru Haret) and the Alma Mater Federation (Federaţia Alma Mater), followed suit by the Federation of National Education (Federaţia Educaţiei Naţionale, FEN) - sent an open letter to the Premier, Călin Popescu Tăriceanu.
Apart from the need for a pay system reform (with greater emphasis on individual professional performance and career progression opportunities), the letter invokes the lack of proper teaching facilities, ageing teaching staff and incoherent measures promoted throughout the years. Trade unions consider that funds allocated for education are now at a critically low level and request an increase from the current 3,3% of GDP, to 6% in 2006, and 7% in 2007, respectively.
Trade unions declare it is imperative that all employees in education should be granted 'a substantial pay rise' and remind the government that in 2004 non-teaching staff received a mere 6% pay increase. Denying the alleged pay increase by 5-7% resulting from the introduction of the flat income tax in January 2005, trade unions demand a doubling of wages by the end of 2006.
Trade unions also reject the proposed work quota increase, declaring it would impair the quality of the education process.
On several occasions trade union leaders declared that disagreements between the members of the government coalition prevented the Ministry of Education from selecting an executive team, while political pressure reaches as far as local school inspectors.
As for private tutoring, trade unions state that teachers willing to declare this kind of income come up against a bureaucratic-administrative chaos.
In response to the statements made by the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Education and Research declared 'it does not believe that teachers are the embodiment of corruption in Romania' and the final goal is not to request a pay-rise that would cover earnings from tutoring but to obtain a financing of a 6% of the GDP for 2006.
Trade unions also sent an open letter to the President of Romania requesting an audience at short notice to resolve the issues.
If the government fails to approach the issues urgently and positively, trade unions have declared they will call a general strike.
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