PM Kariņš: teachers' strike would change nothing

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A possible strike by the teachers' unions will not change anything, because more money will not be found to increase teachers' salaries, said Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš (New Unity party) in an interview on Latvian Television's "Morning Panorama" program March 15.

Theoretically, additional money for teachers' salaries can be obtained by raising taxes, but the rest of society would hardly support it. Also, it is unlikely that society as a whole would support the redistribution of money by depriving others of funding, such as defense, pensioners or police officers, the Prime Minister said.

In the opinion of the Prime Minister, the teachers' unions have taken the position - "no changes, just give more money". According to Kariņš, such an approach is fruitless.

The Prime Minister said that the Ministry of Education and Culture will continue to look for solutions to increase teachers' salaries. "If teachers choose to strike, I don't see that it will change anything. There will be no more money," said Kariņš.

Minister of Education and Science Anda Čakša ("New Unity") announced this week that her Ministry aims to raise the hourly rates for the lowest-paid teachers. According to the tentative agreement reached by the coalition, the lowest hourly pay might be set at EUR 7.75 at the preschool level and at EUR 8.50 at all other education levels.

With the 2023 budget only just passed, it would seem unlikely the government will revise its spending plans in any significant way, except in the case of emergency. However, in parallel news it has emerged that the Ministry of Education and Science might be willing to pay up to half a million euros to help with the imminent staging of the World Ice Hockey Championships in Rīga – an event that would appear to have little to do with improving educational standards in the country and which is likely to enrage teachers if 500,000 euros is rapidly found to help stage a commercial event while the government insists there is no more money available.

Minister Anda Čakša has said that next week she will encourage the Latvian National Sports Council to support the funding request for the hockey tournament. An initial request for 2 million euros was submitted by the Latvian Hockey Federation, which was last week reduced to a request for 750,000 euros.

"Seeing that this is a very important event in the life of Latvia. As it currently goes, I see that it is important for us that we finance part of the license. The request for the license fee is EUR 500,000. That would be the maximum amount that could be supported," Čakša said.

The Latvian Education and Science Employees' Union (LIZDA) believes that the salary of all educators should be increased from September 1. Strike action is provisionally planned for April 24, less than a month before the Ice Hockey World Championships in Tampere and Riga from May 12 to 28. 

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