Education workers’ strike in Slovakia after two weeks – global solidarity welcome!

Education workers’ strike in Slovakia after two weeks – global solidarity welcome!

This is a very rough and hardly exhaustive summary of recent two weeks of strike in education sector in Slovakia. The strike is still on despite being put on hold by its initiator, the mainstream union OZ PŠaV. The relations between key players are mentioned very briefly and thus can not be interpreted as exhaustive. We hope this helps to explain what is going on in Slovakia but for an accurate analysis more time will be needed. Protest actions in front of Slovak institutions abroad are more than welcome – preferably this week!

A SUMMARY OF THE ONGOING EDUCATION WORKERS STRIKE IN SLOVAKIA (26TH NOVEMBER – 7TH DECEMBER)

Monday, November 26

Trade Union of Workers in Education and Science (OZ PŠaV) with over 50 000 members (of approximately 125 000 working in the education sector) starts an indefinite strike to sign the collective agreement a week before next year’s budget is to be signed. They demand:
1) a 10 percent rise in tariff wages for all workers in the sector,
2) a gradual increase of the GDP share spent on education to 6 percent until 2016,
3) a gradual wage increase reaching a level of 1,2 - 1,6 times the national average wage for the teachers in regional education and 1,7 - 3 times for those in the institutions of higher education,
4) a guarantee of a minimum wage for the lowest tariff wage for non-pedagogical employees workers.

The strike is joined by 73 percent of elementary schools, 70 percent of high schools and over 5 percent of the institutions in higher education.

The strike is accompanied with gatherings of mostly education workers (4000 in Bratislava, 2000 in Košice and Banská Bystrica, 500 in Levice). Neither government nor the ministry of education starts negotiations saying they cannot give the workers more than 5 percent wage increase not related to tariff wages because there is no money left.

Besides the OZ PŠaV, also the New Education Union (NŠO) joins the strike. NŠO is a new union which claimed to have over 300 members this August. It was formed after the OZ PŠaV refused to call a strike last year and unites the previously unorganized education workers and those who left OZ PŠaV.

From the beginning there are cases of schools which are threatened not to join the strike and these threats continue in the next days as well.

Tuesday, November 27

Four hour negotiations between the union officials, several ministers and the Prime Minister Robert Fico reach no conclusion. The government proposes ideas for a memorandum dealing with future improvements in the education sector, plus the 5 percent wage increase into tariff wages for pedagogical workers.

No gatherings or demonstrations take place. The number of schools on strike drops. The union provides the following numbers regarding participation:

Elementary schools:
November 26: 73 percent of employees
November 27: 62 percent
November 28: 53 percent

Secondary schools:
November 26: 62 percent of employees
November 28: 53 percent

Wednesday, November 28

The union puts the strike on hold from 28th November 6:00 PM, reasoning that the government started to negotiate the day before. The union says it is going to take time until 5th December to decide whether it signs a memorandum or not and then they may continue the strike again. The Prime Minister says that if the union prolongs the decision even the 5 percent wage rise could be withdrawn.

The workers at the secondary grammar school GLS in Bratislava hold a protest in front of the school as an expression of their support to the strike. They have an independent union in their workplace and called a “solidarity strike” in order to join the OZ PŠaV strike legally. When hearing the strike is put on hold, they are shocked, return to the staff room and decide to continue the strike. A statement is written and spread to mass media calling all the schools to continue the strike.

The rest of the striking schools (still over 50 percent) in Slovakia stop the strike (with the exception of GLS).

NŠO calls the move of OZ PŠaV a betrayal, but stops the strike as well, later recommending their branches to debate about further steps.

Thursday, November 29

GLS is on strike and the workers become a key point for other schools willing to continue the strike. A meeting with representatives from five other Bratislava schools takes place at the GLS premises. A demonstration is called for Friday.

Friday, November 30

A demonstration is attended by 2000-3000 mostly pupils. People march from the Government Office to the parliament. A meeting of representatives from 17 Bratislava schools follows at GLS. A form of “relay race strike” is adopted with a schedule of schools willing to strike next week. GLS workers stop the strike because of financial reasons, but remain a key point for the other schools, sharing their experience and providing support.

Monday, December 3

Two Bratislava schools are on strike as part of the relay race strike. Four Bratislava schools express their protest in various forms (a concert and cultural/sports program; a petition of pupils denying they were forced to protest by the teachers as claimed by the Prime Minister; a refusal to go to school; a half hour protest in front of the school). Protest actions are organized by pupils in Trenčín and Banská Bystrica as well. A board is placed opposite the Ministry of education with the count of days already on strike.

Tuesday, December 4

Three schools are on strike in Bratislava and two in Trenčín.

Education union of the ZSP (IWA/AIT Poland) protests at the Slovak embassy and the Slovak Institute in Warsaw in solidarity with the striking workers.

Wednesday, December 5

Four schools are on strike in Bratislava. One asked the parents not to send kids to school the day before – out of 586 only 55 pupils show up on Wednesday.

A demonstration with the same route as on Friday is organized in Bratislava. Approximately 600-700 people come, this time many more education workers than on Friday. In Levice a protest meeting at the city square is held.

The union refuses the government proposal saying protest will continue next week from Tuesday to Friday as relay race demonstrations in all the major cities, and will flow from the East to the West. No strikes are planned by the union because of the coming Christmas and because they “do not wish to traumatize the society”.

However, the Confederation of Trade Unions (KOZ) federating most unions in Slovakia (and having an election agreement with the ruling party SMER-Social Democracy) makes an unprecedented statement in the recent union history in Slovakia – the Executive Board recommends the officials of OZ PŠaV to accept the government’s offer.

Thursday, December 6

Two schools are on strike in Bratislava.

“Saint Nicolas” strike, a protest action at the premises of another secondary grammar school in Bratislava, is held with a cultural program and discussions.

Friday, December 7

One school in Bratislava and one in Púchov is on strike.

The government passes the new budget. It guarantees a 5 percent wage increase for pedagogical employees in regional education and 5 percent for non-pedagogical in earmarked resources. The budget still has to be passed in the parliament. However, the ruling party has a majority in the parliament so this is expected to go smoothly.

OZ PŠaV makes a statement that no negotiations are planned from their side but the protest actions are going to take place anyway.

PRIAMA AKCIA AND THE STRIKE

Priama akcia has been supportive of the education workers’ protests for several years. We have written solidarity statements and proposed ideas of what could be done in practice to strengthen the position of the workers. More information about the situation preceding the strike can be found in an interview with our member from September 2012 (see http://www.priamaakcia.sk/Warning-strike-in-the-education-sector-in-Slovakia---two-interviews-with-a-member-of-Priama-akcia-IWA-Slovakia.html).

During the last two weeks Priama akcia has been engaged in the events in several ways. We published almost a dozen articles in the newly created [ŠTRAJK BLOG] on our website. We created an online e-form in Slovak and English, so that people can protest the OZ PŠaV officials’ decision of putting the strike on hold. We have called for actions in front of Slovak institutions abroad and are very thankful to ZSP for an action in Warsaw. We consider such solidarity actions extremely important in the next few days!

Besides that, we have supported the workers via leaflets distributed at the demonstrations, in which we thank them for the actions they’ve done and support them in the hard times they face as organizers who had to sacrifice a lot of time, resources and even health to keep the strike going on.

Photos from the protest actions here (with text in Slovak):
Bratislava 30th November: http://www.priamaakcia.sk/spravy/Reportaz-a-foto-z-demonstracie-strajkujucich-bratislavskych-skol.html
Bratislava 5th December: http://www.priamaakcia.sk/spravy/Demonstracia-bratislavskych-pracovnikov-v-skolstve.html
Solidarity action of ZSP Education union in Warsaw http://www.priamaakcia.sk/spravy/STRAJK-BLOG-Protest-na-slovenskom-velvyslanectve-vo-Varsave.html
A list of actions in the 1st week of December: [url=http://www.priamaakcia.sk/spravy/STRAJK-BLOG-Suhrn-protestnych-aktivit--1-decembrovy-tyzden.html ]http://www.priamaakcia.sk/spravy/STRAJK-BLOG-Suhrn-protestnych-aktivit--1-decembrovy-tyzden.html [/url]
Creative images from actions: http://www.priamaakcia.sk/spravy/STRAJK-BLOG-Kreativita-strajkovych-hesiel-aodkazov.html

THOUGHTS ON FURTHER ACTIONS

The strike has still not been called off by OZ PŠaV although only symbolic demonstrations are planned. Next week, some schools are still willing to join the relay race strike.

It is hard to say now what happens after the week of protests announced by the OZ PŠaV or after Christmas. The workers have ideas of what could be done but receiving ideas or at least simple solidarity messages from education workers abroad would be more then welcome.

A CALL FOR INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY

The strike is unprecedented in the Slovak history. We are astonished by and filled with huge respect to the workers because of the level of their self-organization. We think this should be supported by all means worldwide!

How to express solidarity in the most effective way

1. Organize a protest action in front of Slovak institutions (embassies, consulates, cultural institutions etc.) and hand in a protest letter
2. Send faxes/e-mails to OZ PŠaV and authorities in Slovakia
3. Send a solidarity message to our e-mail so we can translate it and spread it to the striking workers

When to do it?
Preferably this week.

Contacts
Slovak embassies in your countries
http://www.foreign.gov.sk/sk/cestovanie_a_konzularne_info/staty_sveta (only in Slovak)

Slovak authorities (the president, the government, the parliament, the ministries of education and finance)
kami@minedu.sk, kancmin@minedu.sk, minister@mfsr.sk, tlacove@mfsr.sk, staznosti@mfsr.sk, info@vlada.gov.sk, urad@vlada.gov.sk, podatelna@vlada.gov.sk, informacie@prezident.sk, info@nrsr.sk

Union officials
ondek@ozpsav.sk, sary@ozpsav.sk, matak@ozpsav.sk, haban@ozpsav.sk, luzak@ozpsav.sk, dubekova@ozpsav.sk

Model text for the protest letter/e-mail/fax to the Slovak institutions abroad and Slovak authorities:

Vieme o tom, že práve teraz prebieha na Slovensku štrajk pracovníkov v školstve. Odmietame ponižujúce navýšenie miezd o 5% a nadalej požadujeme splnenie pôvodných požiadaviek Odborového zväzu PŠaV.

Nesúhlasíme s nátlakom, ktorý zaznamenali štrajkujúci pracovníci zo strany úradov.

O postoji, ktorý zaujali slovenské úrady voci pracovníkom v školstve, budeme informovat ludí v tejto krajine. Ocakávame od Vás odpoved na tento protest.

Name of the organization
City
Country

Translation:
We know there is an ongoing strike in the education sector in Slovakia. We strongly reject the 5% wage increase, which we find humiliating, and demand that the initial demands of the Trade Union of Workers in Education and Science (OZ PŠaV) are fulfilled.

We disapprove the pressure the authorities have excercised against the striking workers.

We will inform people in this country about the attitude of Slovak authorities towards the education workers. We expect your reply to this protest.

Model text for the protest e-mail to OZ PŠaV

You can send an e-mail directly via the e-form on our website – http://www.priamaakcia.sk/index.php?action=soliMailSchool&soliMail_id=32&lan=en.

Send a solidarity message to our e-mail so we can translate it and spread it to the striking workers

Write a short e-mail to priamaakcia(at)priamaakcia(dot)sk to morally support the striking workers.

We will keep you informed. For any questions, feel free to use any of the following contacts:
ICQ: 646624892
Jabber: rpa(at)jabber(dot)cz
E-mail: ba(at)priamaakcia(dot)sk
Telephone: 00420 774 333 259 (leave a text message)

Solidarity with the self-organizing education workers in Slovakia!

Priama akcia,
Slovak section of International Workers’ Association (IWA/AIT)
www.priamaakcia.sk
www.iwa-ait.org

Posted By

MT
Dec 10 2012 18:52

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Comments

jura
Dec 12 2012 10:55

A minor clarification: "relay race strike" = rolling strike.

jura
Dec 12 2012 11:00

And a more serious clarification:

Quote:
a gradual wage increase reaching a level of 1,2 - 1,6 percent above the average wage in the national economy for the teachers in regional education and 1,7 - 3 percent for those in the institutions of higher education,

Not "percent", but "times". I.e., the teachers are demanding wages that would be 1.2 – 1.6 times the national average for regional education and 1.7 – 3 times the average for higher education.

akai
Dec 12 2012 15:32

We were leafleting today at the University and cultural institute.

MT
Dec 12 2012 17:47
jura wrote:
And a more serious clarification:
Quote:
a gradual wage increase reaching a level of 1,2 - 1,6 percent above the average wage in the national economy for the teachers in regional education and 1,7 - 3 percent for those in the institutions of higher education,

Not "percent", but "times". I.e., the teachers are demanding wages that would be 1.2 – 1.6 times the national average for regional education and 1.7 – 3 times the average for higher education.

true, thanks for pointing out, i have edited it.

MT
Dec 12 2012 20:06

I would like to remind all the comrades that protest actions are needed!!!

the rolling strike is still going on.

there were many fun statements so far, but these two by one of the OZ PŠaV chairwomen are short and so hilarious and need no context that I will translate them (quotes from mass media):

* The planned protest gathering of OZ PŠaV was canceled in Banská Bystrica because "the chairwoman of the Council of branch unions of OZ PŠaV – Association of Secondary Schools in Regions Banská Bystrica, Trenčín and Žilina will be on an official trip."

* "Female teachers are no longer interested in participating in this pre-Christmas time; they are women, they need to prepare their households."

jura
Dec 12 2012 20:56

Are you sure you edited the article? The percent mistake is still there.

MT
Dec 12 2012 21:26

i did, but every edit waits for the libcom admin to be accepted...

plasmatelly
Dec 14 2012 20:48

German comrades in solidarity.

MT
Dec 19 2012 17:54

some news.

there were solidarity actions with the workers in Poland (ZSP), Germany (FAU Bonn + ASJ Bonn) and Prague (PA and unorganized activists).

In one way or another, the solidarity came from these countries (mostly by IWA individuals or unions): Poland, Germany, Czech, UK, Serbia, Russia, USA, Brazil, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Norway.

Update on the strike

It is still on and still in phase of “being on hold” by the mainstream union OZ PŠaV. The independent rolling strike is however on as well and already in its third week. What has changed is the approach of the officials of the OZ PŠaV. From Tuesday to Friday (11th-14th December) they organized protest gatherings in six major towns (Bratislava, Trenčín, Žilina, Nitra, Košice, Prešov) with mostly around 300 workers in the crowd. The chairman of OZ PŠaV said at some of these actions that the union has made a mistake when they put the strike on hold and they give the government time until 8th January 2013. He said that if the situation doesn’t change they are willing to restart the strike and also that they like the idea of the rolling strike and are grateful to the independent education workers initiative which started it. He suggested that the possible restarted strike of the OZ PŠaV unions may take shape of the rolling one.

Next week, there is Christmas vacation for all schools until 8th January (except universities which start a little earlier).

It is hard to say now how this period will be be used by the independent workers initiative or OZ PŠaV, but the willingness to share ideas among the independent workers is still there.

We are following the developments closely. There might be another appeal for actions from our side in the first or second week of January and it would be nice if those who would like to participate, spread this info in their organizations or/and got in touch with Priama akcia (also, if you have any questions). Public protest events at Slovak embassies and other representative institutions abroad would be great.

Thanks to all those who have shown solidarity in any form!

MT
Jan 16 2013 18:26

On 9th January, several teachers met with the OZ PŠaV leadership. Despite the cordial and supportive atmosphere, on 10th January the union leadership smashed the high hopes by declaring that they will not do anything (strikes, actions etc.) until 31st March, when the ministry of education should submit a „vision“ of the development of education sector in Slovakia.

Some of the teachers who were involved in the rolling strike met twice during the previous week. They discussed further strategy and tactics, but without any formal decisions taken. This is in part because the active teachers feel that they do not represent their colleagues anymore, as the majority of education workers in their schools are not active anymore.

The teachers talked about several ideas including starting independent unions in their workplace (which would be similar to the union in GLS, that continued in the strike even after the major union put it on hold) and creating a network of active education workers.

The New School Union (NSO) with around 500 members plan a strike for March 13th, when nation-wide tests in primary and secondary schools are taking place. Although this could create a real pressure on the government (the tests are related to secondary school/university acceptance of pupils), the support is very low because the teachers are generally hesitant to cause problems to the pupils this way.