Teachers strike, Minister calls for compromise

Teachers across Latvia staged a one day "warning" strike Friday demanding not only better pay for themselves but better funding of the entire education sector.

No government is as rich as to satisfy everyone’s demands, so compromises will be needed, Latvian Education and Science Minister Marite Seile told public Latvian Radio.

She said it was not true that absolutely all educators were against the proposed pay system for teachers and there were schools that had not joined the strike.

"They have found the new [pay] principles acceptable. In any case, I have to say that no minister is as strong and no government as rich as to satisfy everyone’s demands. Compromises will be needed also in the future,” Seile said.

She said that she would prefer to keep working to bring about positive changes in the education system but, if those efforts turned out to be futile, it would not make sense for her to continue in her post.

Over 24,500 teachers from 912 education establishments are participating in a one-day warning strike organized by the Latvian Trade Union of Education and Science Employees (LIZDA) over failure to reach an agreement with the government on financing for the education sector.

The trade union has two demands -- an allocation worth nine million euros to support small schools and teachers with low wages and additional financing for higher education.

"This strike is no longer only about the money, it is about the attitude of the government and the parliament,” LIZDA’s leader, Inga Vanaga, said earlier, complaining that the authorities had been ignoring the problems in the education sector for years.

Teachers will still go to their schools on the day of the strike but will not be doing any teaching, only looking after the children, who arrive.

The unusual form of industrial action has also led to a debate about whether teachers should be paid for Friday's hours, with Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma suggesting perhaps they should not - which has further estranged the two sides.

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