Teachers plan picket, strike

  • 2005-08-24
  • From wire reports
RIGA - Members of Latvia's Edu-cation Employee Union, dissatisfied with the government's decision to raise teacher wages by 20 lats (43 euros) per month as of next year, are planning to picket outside Parliament on Sept. 6, and have even threatened to strike.

Astrida Harbacevica, chairwoman of the trade union, told the Baltic News Service that the proposed increase barely meets minimum monthly wage requirements.

"We are not threatening to strike in two weeks because we still see a chance to solve the issue, but if [negotiations fail] we will be left no other opportunity," she said.

Teachers across the nation are asking for a salary increase of 40 lats per month as of this September, and an additional 40 lats per month starting next year.

During previous talks with the Education Ministry, the union did not rule out that wages could be left unchanged in September. However, this would boost January's salary increase to 60 lats per month.

"It is inevitable, the trade union is starting its action," said Harbacevica, adding that some 1,000 teachers could attend the first protest.

The union is also determined to ask Parliament members for support in organizing additional events.

"The government does not understand what it is up to," she said.

On Aug. 23, the government moved to support a salary-increase plan, envisaging to boost teachers' monthly wage by 20 lats per month as of January next year. Following this initial raise, their salaries will be increased by 20 lats per month as of September 2006.

Education Minister Ina Druviete asked the government to raise wages by 40 lats per month in January, but the Cabinet refused.

Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis said the government should devote more attention to the salary situation among Latvia's public sector, where certain professionals earn as little as 100 lats per month. "We have granted the teachers a great contribution," he said.