VILNIUS - Lithuanian teachers launched a term-less strike on March 3, demanding the government to raise their wages immediately.
Up to 200 schools are participating in a strike, leaving thousands of pupils out of school and some more schools are preparing to join the strike next week.
Attempting to prevent the action, Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas signed a document regarding wages of schoolteachers on Feb. 25, by which the government promised to raise the pay of workers in the field of education by 60 percent in the next three years.
The document was also signed by the head of the Teacher's Trade union, Ruta Osipaviciute, who represented a part of all teachers' interests, but three other trade unions of Lithuanian education workers did not support the agreement and thus went on strike.
After an approximately 15.4 percent wage increase in January 2008, the average pay of school teachers presently amounts to about 1637 litas (470 euros) after taxes. The government claims it will raise teachers' wages gradually until 2011, when the average pay will amount to about 1,000 euros after taxes.
The teachers, largely supported by the Lithuanian population, demand to raise the pay by 50 percent in 2008, saying it had been promised before and the problem needs to be solved here and now, not in the year 2011.
Lithuanian press reported that most of the parties in the opposition considered that the document, which prescribes an increase of wages in 2009, can hardly oblige future governments after upcoming elections this fall.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas and the minister of education Roma Zakaitiene rejected the possibility of immediate wage increases. Zakaitiene said that the only thing she can do is to suggest adopting a government resolution on the basis of a document signed on Feb. 25.
"I hope that these guarantees will reassure those teachers, who still do not believe that some serious steps will be taken," Zakaitiene said on March 3.
In order to implement promises from the government, an additional 2 billion litas will be needed from the state's budget in 2009's2011.