Indefinite teachers strike in Slovakia has started

Indefinite teachers strike in Slovakia has started

Teachers in Slovakia have begun an indefinite strike today. They demand higher wages, more money to be invested into education and changes in the system of teachers’ further education. The strike is organized by the Initiative of Slovak Teacher (ISU; www.isu.sk) which is an independent network of teachers regardless of union affiliation.

Today a demonstration took place in Bratislava despite bad rainy weather with around 1500-2000 teachers, pupils and supporters present. Among the speakers there were strike committee members as well as representatives of the doctors’ union, nurses and obstetricians (who gave notices en masse at the end of November 2015 to fight for higher wages; next week the notice period ends for several hundreds of those who have stood the enormous intimidation and harassment until now) and a few public figures on the part of the parents.

Protesters later moved from a square in the center to the building of the parliament where the protest ended.

There were around 300 schools closed and some hundreds in limited operation today (there are around 5000 schools in Slovakia). More than 11 000 teachers took part from over 720 elementary, primary and secondary schools altogether.

Priama akcia (IWA Slovakia)

Source (+photos): http://www.priamaakcia.sk/Indefinite-teachers-strike-in-Slovakia-has-started-photos-.html

You will find more information about events that led to the strike in the next External bulletin of the International Workers’ Association.

Comments

Steven.
Jan 26 2016 09:19

Good stuff, please let us know how this progresses!

Do I take it that this then hasn't been organised by the unions as such, but by this other group? Is that legal? Are the workers getting strike pay?

jura
Jan 26 2016 15:43

Correct, the Initiative is not affiliated to any union.

The legality of this is somewhat vague, because on the one hand the constitution recognizes the right to strike (without mentioning unions as a precondition), but on the other hand there are no particular laws that would regulate wildcat strikes. The consensus, though, is that it is legal, and that the strikers are on strike as individuals.

The teachers are not getting any strike pay and the days spent striking will be subtracted from their next wage. Moreover, they will have to pay their own contributions to health insurance for that time (normally this is paid by the employer).

A minor correction, there are slightly over 6000 schools in Slovakia and about 70 000 public sector teachers (2014 data).

Also, the notices the article refers to concern specifically hospital nurses (not doctors; I know the authors know this but stylistically the article is a bit misleading).

akai
Jan 26 2016 16:36

ln any case, teachers in Slovakia are far ahead of their northern neighbors. Also, there is a big problem with the teachers' unions here. The best actions so far have been ones started by parents and students, that teachers support.

And this strike is not really reported here in the mainstream media, so reports like this are useful. Keep the info coming!

Chilli Sauce
Jan 26 2016 16:45

What are the politics of the ISU, out of curiosity?

jura
Jan 26 2016 17:43

They don't have any official political positions as an organization. So far it seems they've managed to repel any overtures from the current parliamentary opposition (small right-wing parties), which is good. But I think many of the most active, younger teachers are basically liberal (in the European sense) and right-wing (i.e., opposed to the current, "left-wing", in fact pretty right-wing and nationalist, "social democratic" government). I think this does play a role in dissuading some of the older teachers, especially in the eastern, poorer regions, from taking part in the strike, as many of them are sympathetic to the current government (or at least prefer it to a right-wing one). (There will be elections in a few weeks, which also plays a role.)

The ISU conveys a sense of a common fight for a better future for the country; hence also the solidarity with hospital nurses. However, the upper limit of that idea (at least so far) seems to be dividing the existing pie in a different way (i.e., more money for schools and hospitals, less money for "corrupt politicians" and "non-systemic, populist measures"; this means that the pro-strike voices sometimes attack "populist" increases in other parts of the social wage which could have been used for schools) and achieving better governance. I don't mean to sound pessimistic but these are the real limits (which can of course be practically overcome).

Ironically, the present opposition parties who are now all gung-ho about the strike faced a similar situation a few years ago, when over a thousand hospital doctors gave notice. The doctors were at first ignored and later this basically created a state of emergency in the hospitals when there was a real chance that patients would not receive proper care. The media (both the tabloids and the "serious" right-wing papers) and politicians viewed the doctors as terrorists and hostage takers. Now the tables have turned and the newspapers, as well as the opposition parties, are mostly very sympathetic to the teachers. Of course if there was a strike in the private sector, nobody would give a damn.

MT
Jan 26 2016 18:45

Thanks jura for explanation. I think you are basically right. I wil add just a few corrections/opinions.

As for the number of schools it is not completely clear as there are counted also "school facilities" (sorry for not being able to find a better translation, I hope jura will step in;)). So there are 5k+ schools and altogether you get 7k+.

ISU has no politics in the sense of political stances. Different people in the strike committee (more than 25 people!) have their different ideas. The aims are basically economic, not political and as ISU they try their best not to be sucked into the pre-election politicing and keep their independence. Personally, I think you would find basically all political sentiments within the ISU members (luckily except extreme/nationalist right;)), as you would probably expect. Simply, most of the people aren't politically profiled.

The only disagreement I have with jura is the analysis of the situation in Eastern Slovakia. I think that the reason for pretty low participation in the strike is not that the teachers there are pro-Smer (the ruling "soc-dem" party). There are rather economic and cultural reasons. First and foremost - the unemployment rates in the East and a real fear that they will lose their jobs. As has been proven during the pre-strike period (and still continues), the attack on the workers and their right to strike was most intense and mostly reported from Eastern Slovakia. Even the representative of the biggest education workers union in that region openly told people that it is wrong to participate in this strike. So, yes, Eastern Slovakia is a stronghold of Smer, but there are other factors that play, in my opinion, stronger role.

As for the limits. I am not sure if this word is correct to use. Sounds a bit patronizing to me and I am not sure if it is useful, but I would not say there is a "line" that is followed in ISU. And it is also important to distinguish between personal opinions of the ISU members (for example in their blogs) and what comes out signed by ISU as such. Currently there is no line "we know where the money is, so give it to us". On the other hand, there is also no line saying "let's not tell them, where to get that money". Do you know what I mean? It is a movement, it lives, but what is completely clear here and now is that it is a movement for more money and better conditions.

jura
Jan 26 2016 21:31
MT wrote:
So, yes, Eastern Slovakia is a stronghold of Smer, but there are other factors that play, in my opinion, stronger role.

I agree with this. It's also clear from the past: all the previous teachers activities (including the strikes in 2003 and 2012) were weaker in the east. So I agree that other factors (unemployment, general demoralization, bossing) are more important, but I also think that politics may play a role and that the Initiative may be viewed by some as "that thing in Bratislava" or "that thing against the government". So I believe they should be careful about this and do the most to disprove these impressions (as you know, even acknowledging support from some NGOs which are viewed as right-wing is in this sense problematic). But so far I think they've managed. I mentioned all this because Chili was asking about politics, and I think that insfoar politics is a factor, it is this.

For the record, it's also true that real wages in education (of course this includes more people than elementary and high school teachers, but still) have mostly been growing faster than the average national real wage in the past few years with the exception of 2010 and 2011 (i.e., during the previous short-lived right-wing government, when they were falling faster than the average). So if any teachers think that they're better off under SMER-SD than under the other lot, they're not wrong.

MT wrote:
As for the limits. I am not sure if this word is correct to use. Sounds a bit patronizing to me and I am not sure if it is useful, but I would not say there is a "line" that is followed in ISU.

I think it's important to recognize the limits. You shouldn't view it as a moral category. Of course the teachers are way beyond what anybody else is doing in this country right now. But it's important to see it for what it is, for example in historical perspective or in comparison with other countries. For instance, it clearly isn't an occupation strike at this moment and that possibility does not seem, for the moment, on the table. (Note that I'm not saying that 1. therefore, we should be openly critical of it or 2. that occupying schools would be the best thing right now. I'm just saying what it is.) Similarly, you can say that for now, there's no indication that anyone is thinking about this struggle in a context that's wider than the public sector (teachers & nurses) and fighting around state budget (viewed as a fixed amount of money).

MT wrote:
And it is also important to distinguish between personal opinions of the ISU members (for example in their blogs) and what comes out signed by ISU as such.

Well, I think that's important if you're writing a thesis in political science about them. In the real world, people don't make that distinction. I mean, what I wrote relates to the movement in general, not the organization in particular.

MT wrote:
It is a movement, it lives, but what is completely clear here and now is that it is a movement for more money and better conditions.

I agree.

jura
Jan 26 2016 21:38

I mean, clearly there have been ideas thrown around to the tune of "Why is there free train service for students and pensioners, when schools and hospitals need that money" (for others, yes, all students and all pensioners can ride trains for free and only pay small change for a seat reservation). I'm not saying that this is an official ISU position – it isn't. But there are teachers who take this approach, they are visible as spokespeople of the ISU and people view this as ideas of the ISU. (Google "Crmoman nesystémové sociálne balíčky".)

MT
Jan 26 2016 21:59

I basically agree with what you say (or mean;)), so just one comment to the limits issue. My point of view is rather practical. That is, what can be done here and now, and not what the "theory" says. That is how I view the reality and that is why my impression is that the limits perspective is quite useless, because it simply has no power in reality and over what is being created in that reality. Let's say occupying schools would be a good idea. But is it doable in the given state of things, in the given conditions, in the given reality? Of course, we should never limit:) ourselves by saying some things are impossible. But the real question seems to me is "what is really possible?". This may sound like the same thing, but I don't think it is.

jura
Jan 26 2016 23:05

Sure, practically it's not very significant – what is significant now is first and foremost how the strike will develop further, whether more schools will join and will actually be shut down etc. (and there's not much that either of us two can do about that, apart from talking to people, going to public meetings, organizing some symbolic support, which I guess both of us are doing).

But I think in a discussion among communists, in an international context, it's different. I think it's important to keep a sober view of this, not to get too worked up about this, and not to create an impression (in comrades abroad) that tomorrow there will be nurses and teachers councils running the country (I'm not implying that the article does this). The single most positive and unique thing about this is that it's a nationwide strike organized outside any formal organization, and that's really quite an achievement.

redsdisease
Jan 27 2016 04:15

Thanks to MT for posting the article as well as to Jura for the helpful discussion in the comments; please keep updating this if you can.

This is interesting to relate to the rolling, wildcat, sick-outs that have been happening in Detroit these past few weeks.

MT
Jan 27 2016 16:45

Updates as of Wednesday evening:

* The number of schools that want to talk to the ISU teachers has risen rapidly. There is an appeal on the ISU website that ISU will visit any school if invited. The visits have been going on for some time already on a daily basis (either from the initiative of the workers who do not strike yet or by the way of personal contacts of the teachers from ISU) but the number of invitations is rising now.

* Most of the actions take place in Bratislava (which is a very strong center of the country, not only economically), but other towns are planning their own actions as well.

* Local demos are planned in mid- and eastern Slovakia.

* Initiative of the parents was formed in Bratislava that wants to inspire parents to form something similar as ISU (a network of local parents' initiatives). Among the forms of support that they promote is also a call to the parents stop sending their kids to schools.

* Several bookshops, cafes and even wine bars or massage centers offered free meeting places and/or free or discount prices on their products for the (striking) teachers in some towns. For example, a theatre in Žilina offers free entrance to teachers and family members. The same goes for a music festival that will take place in Bratislava next weekend.

* There are other events that took or will take place soon in different towns - visiting seniors, Critical Mass, cooking meals for homeless, public debates, hiking trips, public meetings with parents, cleaning public spaces/environment, blood donations... All with participation and/or from the initiative of the people around ISU.

* Some schools ended the strikes, some have started. Hard to say the numbers now and hard to predict what will happen after the first week, but there are already schools that say they will start their strikes next week.

You can see the list of all the events on the ISU main page, just scroll down and perhaps try googletranslate.

Entdinglichung
Jan 27 2016 17:00

is the CP involved? and what about the Hungarian speaking areas?

jura
Jan 27 2016 17:19

Thanks for the update. Here's me, again, on a slightly less optimistic note.

I think it will be important for the ISU not to concentrate on the supportive, more or less symbolic actions (including demos) too much. So far, they've managed this aspect perfectly (website, Facebook, public meetings, getting support from other professions and "personalities") and I have a lot of respect for that (obviously anyone else trying to organize something on this scale in the future, especially in the public sector, will have to learn from this). But what really counts now is the number of closed or at least crippled schools. A "second wave" of more schools joining next week could be a breaking point (if it comes to that, but I really hope it does). I know this isn't a videogame but I would invest all of my resources right now to talking to teachers from these uninvolved schools

It's important to keep in mind that just a couple of years ago, hospital nurses had massive public support (over 240k signatures on a petition; the ISU website has less than 7000 signatures as of today) and did a lot of "spectacular" actions (lots of demos, a hunger strike and semi-occupation near a government building), but haven't really won anything and today they're still fighting the same fight. The doctors, on the other hand, were viewed as public enemies, there were zero "personalities" speaking out in favor of them, no friendly café's or massage centers, no journalists writing nicely about them, the entire political class against them, with some people even saying that they should be forced to work under martial law. Still, they won (although it has to be said that not all of their demands were met).

I said this same thing in a public meeting yesterday and had a mostly positive response (as far as I could tell), so I guess ISU people realize this well.

But of course seeing all this support is refreshing. I just wish it won't fizzle out.

BTW, the problem with the "not sending kids to school thing" is, if you do this a few times in a row, the school may notify the authorities (school attendance is compulsory in Slovakia for ages under 16). The parents who started this seem to be aware of this. To be effective, it has to be done on a massive scale.

jura
Jan 27 2016 17:24
Entdinglichung wrote:
is the CP involved? and what about the Hungarian speaking areas?

Fortunately, the CP has not been involved in anything (including itself) for about a decade now. Judging from the map, there seem to be plenty of schools in Hungarian-speaking areas involved. (The Hungarian minority is no longer a major issue in Slovak politics, and not an issue at all in everyday life.)

MT
Jan 27 2016 17:25
Entdinglichung wrote:
is the CP involved? and what about the Hungarian speaking areas?

CP meaning Communist Party? They degraded to irrelevancy years ago.

As for the Hungarian speaking areas. There is an association of Hungarian teachers that has been proposing their own demands for a longer time. They are related to the schools with Hungarian as their first language and their main issue is that the number of hours devoted to studying the Hungarian language in the first year is 5 as opposed to 9 hours of Slovak language at Slovak schools. They asked ISU for support and after one of the strike committee members spoke in a radio show positively about this issue the number of striking schools in the Hungarian speaking areas has risen (mostly in the western part of Slovakia). They also came to the demo on Monday and the issue was mentioned during the speeches.

jura
Jan 27 2016 17:28

Also MT, you forgot to mention THEY'RE MEETING THE PRESIDENT TOMORROW

wink

MT
Jan 27 2016 17:33

To add to what Jura said - The thing is that some things are obviously more in the media and some not. Like for example visiting schools on a daily basis. And I wouldn't say not unsuccessfully at all. So that's triple negative on the positive note from me:)

MT
Jan 27 2016 17:38
jura wrote:
Also MT, you forgot to mention THEY'RE MEETING THE PRESIDENT TOMORROW;)

Yes, you are right, I didn't notice it in the events part of the website when I prepared the list. Honestly, I don't think they see this meeting as something promising or extra meaningful. It is rather one of the events among many. Basically, a media stunt.

MT
Jan 27 2016 19:28

Update:

* A petition was started by a unionist from a school in a small town in mid-Slovakia from the OZPSaV union (he is a chairman of that union in the school). OZPSaV is the biggest union in education sector. In 2012 they stopped their strike after 3 days which gave birth to independent rolling strikes which basically gave birth to what we know today as ISU:) It seems that this union rep has no ties to the higher union bureaucracy so it could be an honest attempt to break the disgusting position of the OZPSaV whose leader said that the strike is legal and will not stop members from taking part (while their other functionaries openly told workers that getting involved makes no sense plus tons of other bullshit) but at the same time said nothing encouraging or really pro-strike. So this union rep started a petition for the OZPSaV members and reps stating that the union cannot stand apart from its members who face intimidation during the strike and very bad wage conditions in general. That is on the positive note. The not so positive part of the petition (potentially) could be the demand for the union to step in and negotiate the solution to the unsustainable situation of the workers. Btw., OZPSaV signed a collective agreement last year and claim that they cannot strike because of it. They use this as a justification for their official "neutral" position. And some of their members are obviously pissed off about this.

jura
Jan 27 2016 19:58

BTW there is no "no strike" paragraph in the collective agreement, at least none that I can see.

MT
Jan 27 2016 20:04

There might be something in the Collective Agreement Act.

jura
Jan 27 2016 20:22

Yeah, there's a paragraph in the 1991 act about a strike being illegal ("according to the CA Act") if it either continues after signing the CA or is called after that. But all of this seems to relate to the context of collective negotiation. I think the consitution supersedes this and the union could call a strike "according to the constitution", i.e. unrelated to the CA. And in any case the employer or a state attorney would first have to file a motion to the court to declare the strike illegal.

MT
Jan 27 2016 20:37

That is of course another thing. And they also have the option to tell their individual members that yeah, go on or just take part in the strike outside the union structure. It is a constitutional (individual) right and it is a strike according to the constitution, so it is quite clear that the union doesn't bother. Or perhaps they try to persuade people that they cannot read laws:) It is up to the reader to guess what is more probable.

jura
Jan 31 2016 09:24

The number of teachers registered as being on strike (the ISU publishes this online) has fallen from about 10700 on Thursday to slightly less than 10000 today (the number of schools: about 760 then to 720 today). According to the Ministry of Education, 111 schools were closed last Friday (down from 114 on Thursday and 179 on the first day of the strike).

However, ISU says this includes only certain types of facilities and only those which are completely closed down. So there are pre-K's which are also closed down, as well as elementary and high schools which are crippled by the strike and don't really work normally - some of them are not counted in the official ministry's stats. The ISU have calculated that on Friday the strike still hit about 130 000 pupils and students who didn't have normal lessons.

There is a mobilization campaign underway with demonstrations and public meetings throughout the next week. There's some support from the general public, but judging just from Facebook, it does not seem overwhelming. We'll see what happens. If more teachers join and the total number exceeds the original record (up to 12 000 on the second day of the strike), it could be a tipping point.

jura
Jan 31 2016 09:29

Also, as of today, the petition MT mentioned has only 275 signatories. A turnaround by the teachers' union would now be surprising.

jura
Jan 31 2016 15:48

Some more general reflections:

  • In public discussions (including those on TV), people (including representatives of the ISU) are beginning to reflect on the more general issues of what education is, what should it look like, to what extent the state should dictate the curriculum etc. For now, this is quite vague – a reconstruction of the entire education system is obviously not one of the demands and there is no clear vision. So even the crazier, bourgeois-utopian stuff sometimes comes up (turning all schools into Montessori schools was one of the things I noticed). The idea of more decentralization and freedom in schools, as put forward by some of the more publicly known figures (including teachers and people in education-oriented NGOs), seems to be still formulated in terms of "getting rid of the remnants of pre-1989 socialist education", and as such it finds support among right-wing intellectuals. Generally, the goal seems to be to catch up with the more developed countries in terms of quality of education. I think this could prove to be a distraction from the struggle for wages and the teachers should be more single-minded about getting higher pay. (Obviously this is difficult in a situation when less than 15% of the teachers are involved in the strike. I understand the attraction: talking about this general stuff is a way of gaining support from the parents and the general public, or at least those who have time to care about such things, i.e. mostly middle-class parents, journalists and intellectuals. However, there's little that the teachers can do to actually improve the education system, and in any case it's not their job. And as more and more people who are not teachers support the struggle, this aspect of "improving education for our children" will become more prevalent, potentially drowning the initial militancy of teachers as workers.)
  • This also relates to the wages issue. The idea is to achieve the 0.8 ratio of a teacher's wage to the average university educated employee wage that is prevalent in the OECD. (In Slovakia, the ratio is currently at about 0.5). The more general question of why the heavily feminized professions in education and care, like teachers and nurses, have subpar wages just about everywhere besides South Korea (for teachers), does not seem to have been raised as of now.
  • A musician and head organizer of the biggest summer festival in the country, who is quite popular with the intellectual (and right-wing) public, came out in support of the teachers. Asked to compare the situation with the struggle of hospital doctors a few years ago (when 1200 doctors handed in notices of leave, creating a nationwide emergency and winning a series of important pay hikes), which he hadn't supported at the time, he said that that the case of doctors was different, because a union was involved and he mistrusts all unions, and that the doctors had political backing (which is factually either untrue or played absolutely no role, because they continued the struggle even after a change of government). The teachers initiative, he said, is fine, because it's basically a civic initiative for better schools. The current government is saying the same thing about the teachers that this guy said about the doctors – that some opposition parties are secretly involved and have instrumentalized the unwitting teachers for the upcoming elections (of course, the right-wing government said the same thing about doctors in 2011; the difference was that at that time, almost nobody supported them, whereas the teachers do have some public support). Apparently these public sector pay disputes inevitably get caught up between rivaling factions of the bourgeoisie. In the future, I think it will be important for public sector workers to find a way of bypassing this – perhaps, among other things, by choosing their alliances and affiliations wisely, by having a broad spectrum of spokespeople, by critizing the "political class" as a whole, and by trying to connect to the public not through general issues, but through pay, working conditions and living standards. Of course this is easier said than done, and I don't mean this to sound as some great discovery. I just wanted to get this out.
  • There have been some genuinely interesting statements. Someone (one of the teachers, I can't remember who) said the country has turned into a giant factory. Another one (one of the spokeswomen for ISU) said that the private sector has an interest in improving the education system, because it needs a skilled labor force, but it won't support the teachers because, being the private sector, it opposes strikes per se.
  • On a less optimistic note, the idea of fighting for better education is sometimes formulated (by young teachers) in terms of "your children having more young teachers", which seems potentially alienating toward the older teachers (who currently make up the majority of the profession).
  • In terms of the teachers-nurses alliance, not much seems to have happened other than some pronouncements from the leaders (on both sides) a few days ago. Tomorrow (Feb 1), hundreds of nurses will leave their jobs for good in at least three regional hospitals. The state has already used army nurses to make up for this (some of the nurses who've been in their notice period have already taken sick leave).
  • Generally, I'm not very optimistic about the teachers winning this. I think it depends on the next few days. A distant possibility is that if they hold out until the second half of February, some of the universities (or their students) could get involved if there's still enough momentum (the summer term mostly starts around Feb 16). I believe it's important for them to start thinking about what comes next (regardless of whether they win), how to keep this independent organization alive, how to give it some structure (I don't know if they have some procedures in terms of electing delegates etc. – perhaps they already do). There could be a wave of repression in schools against the most active teachers in the aftermath (both if they win and if they don't), and an important task of this organization would be do defend them. (I think the union had already said it won't help them.) I also think it's a mistake they've refused to collect money in support of the strike (but I understand their reasons).
MT
Jan 31 2016 14:40

Updates for the next week:

• Next week local demos and meetings continue to be held in different parts of Slovakia.

• Meetings with teachers in the regions will continue as well, now with more participation from the local initiatives taking care of their own regions instead of people from IBU (Bratislava “branch” of ISU, the initiators of the movement) travelling there. So far, the effects of the meetings were quite good, mobilizing the teachers to not only meet regarding the strike movement at their own schools as teachers collectives for the first time but even agreeing on taking action and joining the strike in the next days.

• On Monday, there will be “human chains” in almost 15 towns to symbolize dissatisfaction with the situation in education sector.

• A strike support happening in Bratislava is organized on Tuesday by university students.

• Also, there will be an emergency meeting of the Education Committee on Tuesday. It is one of the expert committees that are part of the National Council (parliament). The chairman of the OZPSaV union will participate as well as ISU teachers.

Most of these actions are of course clearly understood as media stunts to keep the strike visible in the media.

More news from this week:

• Daily videosummaries during the working week were created where news from the current day is summarized by someone from ISU. Mostly it’s a visual version of the newsletter that is received by thousands of teacher subscribers during the working week.

• A video was created in Ruthene language for teachers in the eastern part of Slovakia where Ruthene minority leaves mostly and which is the only region where almost no school has taken part in the strike so far.

• A guy set up a website for collecting money for the teachers who can’t afford to strike. It is done in quite an interesting way (so far the best one that could function with least obstacles to my opinion) but the whole idea of having a strike fund is not very welcome in ISU for several reasons.

I guess most of the things were already said in updates earlier this week. I will comment on jura in a separate post later today.

MT
Jan 31 2016 18:13

Comments on jura’s posts:

• Number of striking teachers

The numbers are falling down, which is not a big surprise I would say. Still, they are quite high and way above initial expectations. The numbers could rise a bit again in next days, as there are several schools that will join on Tuesday. Of course, if the numbers continue to decline, it could have a psychological effect on part of the teachers but that is something one can hardly do anything about. The number of closed schools reported by the ministry is nonsense, of course. What they do is that they make calls to regions and ask if the school is closed: yes/no? So, as jura pointed out, their statistics obviously miss the schools that are open but where for example only a few classes with younger pupils are taught and the school is in fact severely crippled by the strike.

• Media outputs

I would be very cautious to draw any conclusions from what is said in the media either by experts, parents or ISU teachers. The information and messages tend to be either generalized or mentioned in bits that prevent us from seeing the bigger picture. The perception of the public can be manifold. I have no clue what people think about it, except that it is a fact that the strike enjoys extraordinary support compared to the other strikes/protests in the past. But even this view could be distorted, because, we are surrounded by people in a very specific region (Bratislava) and have no way of knowing what is the “public opinion” in other towns and in my opinion social media is not a good indicator of whatever.

• Education system analysis/critique

ISU has no position on this except that it is bad and should be improved first by fulfilling their (mostly wage/economic) demands. What could be done next is a completely different thing and people can here and there talk about it, but again it is not a good indicator for any conclusions on this topic with regard to the strike. I believe that the debates in different towns are partly about this topic, but this is just to say that we can’t make judgements based on any TV or other outputs that we see/hear. Even more when there can be bits here and there which represent individual opinion of a speaker (it is hard to avoid it sometimes, as ISU teachers are simply active teachers, not experts on how to speak in the media).

• Better system or more money on a payslip

Jura mentions the potential issue of not speaking about money but about better future for our children in general. The general public good is a catch-phrase, of course. A simple idea that you can put on posters, say to media, anywhere. The general agreement is that this strike is basically about money. But of course, the teachers are not happy about the education system as such. So we can think about this from the psychological perspective. You are pissed off, work in bad environment, are underpaid and now you have to say something to the public that you think will be the most to the point thing. If you say system, you mean the money as well. If you say money, you mean the system as well. So how would you communicate this to different publics? I guess the answer is that different approaches would be taken. It is something that we can be critical about. But first of all, who gives a fuck about what we are critical of on libcom:) and second, given the movement that was created and the history in Slovakia I would rather maintain the optimistic note and appreciate that the whole thing has not turned into “future for our children no matter the wages” yet;)

As for who should make a change. Well, despite some mentions of where to find the money, I think there is no real consensus that the striking workers should be the ones to do it. I pointed it our already and have no reason to change my opinion. The strike and its continuation is the major task of ISU which they are working on with their (seriously limited) resources. We should keep this in mind.

• Lessons

Jura gives some advice on what the movement should do better or what the future movements should do better. As for the alliances, ISU has no alliances except for the nurses (which is a rather symbolic one). It is an independent network. They received help by different individuals or organizations but I certainly would not use term “alliances” or “affiliations” (although I am not really sure what is meant by this).

As for spokespersons, well it is not about “choosing them” it is about the fact that the day has 24 hours and the number of people in ISU is limited. People are overworked and sometimes you even can’t find anyone to go here or there to talk to either other workers or media. As for the political class that should be criticized, perhaps I don’t understand but from what I read and hear, there doesn’t seem to be a different message than that all the governments just screw the teachers. Sure, it is 5 weeks to parliamentary elections, so people find anti-SMER sentiments in this but I don’t think ISU can be blamed for that.

As for the way to connect to the public, that is a tricky thing. First and foremost, you’d have to define the public. Is it someone watching TV, someone reading newspapers or media, parents at the meetings, teachers at the meetings, workers writing tons of emails to ISU etc.? And it should be mentioned that the wage issues are generally accepted in this strike, by all parties, including the government. But if you mean conservative workers who just whine about how things are bad and say that what the teachers earn is more than they do or for example that they don’t deserve it (or whatever other stupid idea), then this is quite hard to really “communicate”, mostly for a simple reason, it does not really appear as an issue at the meetings etc. where it would require a specific response. At least this is my impression that the wage claim is something of a common sense. So, I agree, some things are easier said than done and I think that ISU are well aware of most of these things and generally of their “limits”.

• Teachers-nurses alliance

In terms of the teachers-nurses alliance, yes, not much has been done in practical terms. None of the sides proposed anything else than the common statement of support. Do you have any ideas that you would propose?

• What next?

That is the question that is on the table and discussed (including topics that you mention plus more).

• Possible repression

As for the wave of repression, personally I find it not very likely that it could happen thanks to a swift and radical public response to the first intimidation cases. And even if this happens, I think thanks to this response the affected teachers will know where to ask for support. Also, it is not so easy to fire a teacher smile

Let’s see what the next week brings.

jura
Jan 31 2016 19:26
MT wrote:
Of course, if the numbers continue to decline, it could have a psychological effect on part of the teachers but that is something one can hardly do anything about.

Yes, this is one aspect of it. Another one is that at – at least in my opinion – at the current numbers (even if we disregard the offical stats and accept ISU numbers, i.e., 290 disrupted schools/facilities on Jan 27 and 270 on Jan 28) the strike is not disruptive enough. Perhaps with time, even such a small number of schools (less than 300 in a system with something over 6000 facilities) will prove disruptive, but I don't think that it's such an evident fact that it will (as you seem to imply).

MT wrote:
except that it is a fact that the strike enjoys extraordinary support compared to the other strikes/protests in the past

Yes, this is indeed unusual. I think it has a lot to do with the political situation, and also that Bratislava is exceptional in this respect (compare this, e.g., with Košice, which is the second biggest town with about half the population of Bratislava, but the public support, in terms of the number of people coming to demos or discussions, seems to be much less than 50% of that in Bratislava, at least as far as I can tell from the media).

MT wrote:
but this is just to say that we can’t make judgements based on any TV or other outputs that we see/hear.

Frankly, I don't know why you're being so touchy about this. I simply made some comments about what was said on TV, saying that that's what's being said on TV. Obviously I don't think that everyone involved thinks the same, and I never implied such a thing. You seem to interpret it as some attack on the ISU. But it was just on observation on what I see (from a political point of view) as limitations on part of some of the people (in/around the ISU) who publicly put forward their ideas. I think it would be much better if there weren't these limitations and if the people involved in the ISU were revolutionary communists, but that's about it – I certainly don't think they're stupid or doomed to fail because of this or anything like that.

But I also think that it's important to watch out for what's being said, how the struggle is framed and discuss the pros and cons of the existing approach, and not just be psyched about everything they do and say, or come up with excuses in case they make what objectively are mistakes. And I think one can do this without getting emotional or defensive about it.

MT wrote:
But first of all, who gives a fuck about what we are critical of on libcom:) and second, given the movement that was created and the history in Slovakia I would rather maintain the optimistic note and appreciate that the whole thing has not turned into “future for our children no matter the wages” yet;)

Well we're discussing on libcom so obviously I'm putting things the way I would put them when discussing with communists! And even if one takes a completely optimistic position on this struggle on libcom, nobody gives a fuck elsewhere, so I don't really understand what you mean by that.

Quote:
Jura gives some advice on what the movement should do better or what the future movements should do better. As for the alliances, ISU has no alliances except for the nurses (which is a rather symbolic one). It is an independent network. They received help by different individuals or organizations but I certainly would not use term “alliances” or “affiliations” (although I am not really sure what is meant by this).

I meant "alliances and affilitations" in the sense of "public figures or organizations who publicly come out in support of us". When looking at the list, you can see organizations which are neutral in political terms (academic institutions, mostly, and some others), but also organizations which have a certain viewpoint (i.e., people who would NEVER EVER support a strike in the private sector, or even the doctors under the "wrong" government to struggle against). Same goes for the bookshops or TV shows that have provided support. I think these alliances and affiliations are politically divisive, and may play a role in why some teachers view this as a "Bratislava thing" or a "opposition parties thing".

MT wrote:
As for spokespersons, well it is not about “choosing them” it is about the fact that the day has 24 hours and the number of people in ISU is limited.
MT wrote:
Do you have any ideas that you would propose?

I really don't understand why you keep taking this defensive position, as if I was poo-pooing your pet project.

It's a given that this is an interesting struggle. It's important to follow it. It's important to go to public meetings and speak up whenever the opportunity arises. It's important to express solidarity at least symbolically, especially if you're working in a related sector. I've done all of that. But I also think it's important to analyze it objectively. In my view, it's not wrong for communists to take issue with any limits of existing movements, especially if it has no practical effect (I'm sure that my posts on libcom will not demoralize any teachers in Slovakia, simply because they're not likely to read this). I mean my view is that even if they win, that's good for them and the children and ultimately even the private sectors employers etc., but what I'm mostly interested in is whether this struggle ends up giving more power to a section of public sector workers, wheter it unifies them and leads perhaps just a few of them to develop a perspective that goes beyond "if Fico can find money for welfare packages, he can find money for schools" (that's almost literally what just arrived in the most recent newsletter from the ISU).