Teachers say protest back on as government demurs on pay

Following a meeting September 4, which saw the government postpone making a decision on raising teahers' pay, the Latvian Trade Union of Education and Science Employees has decided to call industrial action which it had put on hold in expectation of a decision from government.

The union's chairwoman Inga Vanaga told reporters that the union would stage a strike due to the government's inability to make a final decision on increasing teachers' minimum wage.

The government fudge on the issue was particularly galling as only a day earlier - the first day of the academic year - Education Minister Karlis Šadurskis had reminded teachers about the pay rises they could expect. 

The Education and Science Employees' Union can still call off the strike if a compromise is reached regarding the government's criteria on the minimum number of students per class in high schools and requirements on students' performance in centralized exams.

The union is planning to stage the strike some time in the latter part of September.

The government decided to postpone the vote on increasing teachers' minimum salary after the Education and Science Employees' Union and Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments raised objections against the government's quantity and quality requirements on education in high schools.

At the start of the government's meeting, Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis said that the criteria for teachers' salaries in high schools would be reviewed first, and only after that could the government vote on increasing teachers' minimum salary, as additional financing for raising teachers' wages would only be provided to schools meeting the criteria.

One of the main stumbling blocks today was the minimum number of students per class in high schools and requirements on centralized exams, suggested by the Education and Science Ministry. Latvian Trade Union of Education and Science Employees representative Inga Vanaga said her union had a number of objections, including against inequality between municipal schools and private schools and the centralized exams' criteria. Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments' representative Inara Dundure also said that the criteria on education quality were too high, while the quantity requirements - too harsh.

However, Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola supported the premier and said that increasing teachers' minimum salary would only be considered after the new criteria were approved.

Education and Science Minister Karlis Sadurskis said that the criteria on education quality must not be compromised and that support should only be provided for those schools that meet the criteria.

The government eventually decided to postpone the matter until next week, and to organize several expert meetings before then.

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