Young minister looks out for young teachers

  • 2000-01-27
  • By Blake Lambert
RIGA - Less than six weeks into his term as the minister of education and science, Latvia's youngest cabinet minister decided to improve the salaries of the country's youngest teachers.

Twenty-seven year old Maris Vitols, who was appointed by Prime Minister Andris Skele in mid-December, has granted raises, effective Mar. 1, to teachers with the least amount of experience.

The increases, which still require approval from the Cabinet of Ministers Feb.1, are drawn from the 8.24 million lats ($14.1 million) given to the Education and Scientific Workers of Latvia, LIZDA, in December.

*Teachers, who graduated teachers college and have less than two years experience, will make an extra 15 lats per month.

*Graduates with two to five years experience will receive an additional12 lats per month.

*Those who have worked more than five years will have an additional 10 lats per month on their pay checks.

*Teachers, with less than two years experience, who did not complete teachers college will also be paid another 10 lats per month.

*Non-graduates who have worked for more than two years will have their salaries raised by 6 lats per month.

"We have a terrible situation (in Latvia)," said Gunda Ignatane, press secretary for the Education and Science Ministry.

According to Ignatane, more than 1,100 people graduated from teachers college in 1999, but less than half of them are working.

"When you have graduated and you want to work in a school, your salary is 48 lats, after taxes, for the first two years," said Ignatane. "It's a very small salary."

LIZDA held two, one-day strikes in November and December, in the midst of its unsuccessful negotiations with the government to raise their salaries and to protest their low pay.

It demanded that the government to keep a promise made by the previous Parliament to pay teachers at least double the monthly minimum wage of 50 lats.

The government, seeking to cut its deficit, rejected LIZDA's demand, saying it would cost them nearly 30 million lats.

At press time, the union was unavailable to comment on the new raises, because it was meeting with Education Ministry officials on Jan. 25 to discuss that topic.

Poor teachers salaries, Ignatane said, have resulted in a rapidly aging workforce where there are many people who are 40, 50, and 60 years old.

"We don't have young people in our system. This is why the minister decided to increase the salaries more for people who have a higher education, but haven't worked in the education system for very long."