Teachers' strike set to go ahead in September

During a crunch meeting of the teachers' strike settlement commission on Wednesday, no compromise was found between the Latvian Education and Science Workers' Union (LIZDA) and the Ministry of Education and Science (IZM). This means that an indefinite strike of teachers belonging to that union will take place from September 19, according to the head of LIZDA, Inga Vanaga.

However, there is still some room for negotiation. The union is preparing an official strike application, which must be submitted by Monday, September 12. LIZDA is also waiting for a draft decision of the Cabinet of Ministers to be prepared in writing from the Minister of Education and Science Anita Muižniece, as the minister reportedly told the commission that the government could still decide that next year's draft budget will include funding for the fulfillment of the trade union's demands.

If it does proceed, the strike will cover education workers from kindergartens to universities. Education workers will not be at their workplace during the strike. According to Vanaga, the number of strike participants could be measured in the thousands.

"We also see further negotiations being possible only with the presence of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance," Vanaga said.

"Politicians have every opportunity to prevent this industrial action and not to cause this inconvenience, to allow students to study and teachers to work," Vanaga said. The strike procedure and the strike itself, if it starts, can only be stopped by fulfilling the union's demands, she said, expressing discontent with the intransigence of the Minister.

Teachers are dissatisfied with their workloads, and they also want pre-defined teachers' remuneration principles to be respected. LIZDA said that the set of problems prevailing in the sector is much broader. 

"Why are we planning to strike? The deepest reasons for the strike are the teachers' desire for justice, rule of law and respectful treatment," said Vanaga.

The two demands of the teachers - balancing the workload and gradually increasing salaries - would cost around 139 million euros next year, 255 million in 2024 and 276 million euros in 2025 according to government estimates.

The Minister of Education and Science Muižniece stated:

"This government cannot make fiscal commitments that affect the multi-year budget. This is an election year... this imposes certain conditions regarding the submission of new priority measures or new policy initiatives in the budget. This is not a good moment, a time when after [lengthy Covid restrictions] in schools, students can study and be taught face-to-face normally, without any restrictions , when we have had two years of massive disruption. Without denying the problems, this is indeed a very bad time to strike."

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