Higher education staff threaten strike action

Dissatisfied with the government’s higher education policies, employees of Lithuanian universities and colleges launched a number of protest actions in May 2008, organised by the Association of Trade Unions of Lithuanian Higher Education Schools. The workers issued a resolution setting out their demands, which include a 10-year programme of pay increases, and threatened to go on strike if the authorities do not respond satisfactorily.

Protests and strikes launched by school teachers in late 2007 and early 2008 (LT0804019I, LT0803019I) appear to have encouraged academic staff at universities and colleges to take action in support of better employment conditions.

Widespread protest action

On 22–28 May 2008, members of the Association of Trade Unions of Lithuanian Higher Education Schools (Lietuvos aukštųjų mokyklų profesinių sąjungų susivienijimas, LAMPSS) launched a series of protests against the higher education policy of the government (Lietuvos Respublikos Vyriausybė, LRV), claiming that it sought to impoverish universities and colleges.

More specifically, on 22 May, a protest was initiated by academic staff from the University of Klaipėda (Klaipėdos universitetas, KU) in the northwest of Lithuania. This was followed on 27 May by a similar action organised at the Lithuanian Academy of Physical Education (Lietuvos kūno kultūros akademija, LKKA) in the central city of Kaunas. On 28 May, protest conferences were held at Šiauliai University (Šiaulių universitetas, ŠU) in northern Lithuania and in Kaunas. The latter event, entitled Higher education – A matter for every citizen, was attended by some 90 representatives of universities and colleges in Kaunas and the capital city, Vilnius. Among the institutions represented were: Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (Vilniaus Gedimino technikos universitetas, VGTU), the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre (Lietuvos muzikos ir teatro akademija, LMTA) in Vilnius, Vilnius Pedagogical University (Vilniaus pedagoginis universitetas, VPU) and Mykolas Romeris University (Mykolo Romerio universitetas, MRU) in Vilnius.

The Kaunas conference involved representatives of LAMPSS and of the Lithuanian Scientific Society (Lietuvos mokslininkų sąjunga, LMS), as well as university presidents, professors and lecturers. Speakers expressed dissatisfaction with the state’s attitude towards science and education, and supported the mobilisation of trade unions representing higher education staff.

Demands of education workers

The conference in Kaunas adopted a general resolution by higher education staff against LRV’s policy in the area of funding higher education. The resolution claims that LRV does not have a well-defined strategy for the development of higher education, and calls on the government to:

  • address the issues related to the pay of employees of teaching and non-teaching higher education institutions and research institutes;
  • earmark 2% of Lithuania’s gross domestic product (GDP) for science and research in the 2009 state budget;
  • develop, coordinate and sign a 10-year programme of pay increases for the staff of teaching and non-teaching higher education institutions and employees of scientific research institutes;
  • follow the principles of social partnership and develop social dialogue among LRV, parliament (Lietuvos Respublikos Seimas, LRS) and LAMPSS;
  • include in a current draft Law on Science and Studies the principle of representation by worker representatives – notably, trade unions – in all university bodies of management;
  • eliminate fixed-term employment contracts for lecturers and scientists;
  • reduce the teaching workload to the EU average, which is estimated at 400 hours a year.

Furthermore, the resolution states that, if LRV and LRS fail to meet the above demands, LAMPSS retains the right to take the following action:

  • initiate pickets, demonstrations, meetings and protest strikes;
  • complain to international human rights bodies and trade union organisations;
  • launch a full-scale strike on 1 September 2008.

Government response

In response to the lecturers’ actions, LRV has drawn up a pay increase programme for employees of scientific and research institutions over the period 2009–2011. The programme provides for annual wage increases of 20% until 2011. According to LAMPSS, this programme is not satisfactory to academic staff, but it is considered as a first step towards dialogue.

Inga Blažienė, Institute of Labour and Social Research

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