Teachers confirm general strike starting on 9 March

Ljubljana – School and kindergarten teachers will start a general strike on 9 March after the members of the teachers’ trade union SVIZ overwhelmingly endorsed the action. The union demands higher pay for teaching and non-teaching staff alike plus bonuses for extra work connected with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We knew that employee dissatisfaction was widespread, but the result nevertheless surprised us,” SVIZ secretary general Branimir Štrukelj told the press on Friday.

SVIZ sent out questionnaires to all of its 32,000 members plus other staff. It received responses from almost 41,000 staff, of whom more than 90% voted in favour of the strike.

Schools will shut down when the strike starts and will remain closed until the union has reached a strike agreement with the government, though Štrukelj said the exact scope of the school closures will be adjusted as necessary after the first day.

“The first day of the strike is 9 March, we wish it will also be the last day of the strike,” Štrukelj said.

He is convinced the mass support for the strike is the result of the government’s “utterly disrespectful attitude to the extreme efforts that employees have been investing in keeping kindergartens and schools open” during the most recent wave of Covid.

The government should now form a task force to respond to the union’s demands. “As far as we are concerned, we can start negotiating this very moment, the ball is in their court,” he said.

The action was prompted by the government’s decision to offer doctors a higher top pay bracket, which has angered other public sector trade unions.

Nurses and workers in social services staged a one-day strike earlier this week for the same reason.

Štrukelj said the latest data on public sector wages showed that the work of educators was being “systematically devalued” as wages in education have grown by far less than in some other segments of the public sector.

“The fact that nobody wants to talk to us despite this was simply the final straw.”

The Education Ministry expressed regret at the decision given that talks are still ongoing. It said the action was “unnecessary” given that schools had received additional staff to cope with the extra workload and that hazard bonuses to the tune of EUR 70 million had so far been paid out to staff.