Schools closed as close to 40,000 staff go on strike
Ljubljana, 9 March - Close to 40,000 teachers and other staff at schools, kindergartens and universities across Slovenia are expected to go on strike on Wednesday to demand higher wages as well as bonuses for extra work during the Covid-19 epidemic.
Due to the general strike, schools and kindergartens will be closed but day care will be organised for the youngest children whose parents have nowhere else to take them.
Lectures, research and other activities will also be suspended at higher education institutions. "The only exception is pre-scheduled exams and diploma presentations, clinical training vital to patients' health and meetings to discuss strike demands," the Higher Education Union has said.
Staff at kindergartens and primary and secondary schools will strike at their workplace and their union SVIZ urged them to gather in front of schools or in schoolyards at five minutes to noon and turn their backs in a show of discontent.
SVIZ declared the strike after its members as well as non-teaching staff voted overwhelmingly in favour of the industrial action.
They set eight strike demands, the most important of which they say is signing a deal with the government to get paid for the extra work and exposure to virus during the Covid-19 epidemic, and higher wages for all staff working in education to make up for the disparities created after other sections of the public sector secured rises.
The government says the strike is unwarranted arguing that the average wage bracket of teachers is above that for groups of employees such as soldiers, police officers and nurses which had already secured rises.
On the eve of the strike, Education Minister Simona Kustec said they were willing to discuss systemic solutions and reform of the public sector pay system with the unions but the government had made a commitment not to place additional systemic burdens on the public finances ahead of the election.
The ministry also said that kindergartens, primaries and music schools received more than EUR 149 million for Covid-related bonus payments from October 2020 to June 2021.
Considering the great number of institutions where the staff opted for the strike, SVIZ boss Branimir Štrukelj says the industrial action "cannot pass off without causing problems in particular for the parents of kindergarten and primary school children".
He appealed to parents to support them in their demands, while denouncing the Education Ministry's instruction to headteachers that they should guarantee a minimum teaching process during the strike as unlawful. Unlike in healthcare, the right to strike in education is no way limited, the unionist said earlier this week.
However, the ministry invoked an article in the strike act which says that public services need to provide minimum activities during a strike necessary to keep people and property safe and allow work elsewhere to go on.
SVIZ says the strike would continue until their demands are met, although schools will only be closed on Wednesday. They are planning to meet next Monday to decide whether to resume the action under this government or break it off and resume talks with a new government formed after the 24 April general election.