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.

Submitted by MT on January 25, 2016

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.

8 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on January 26, 2016

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

8 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 26, 2016

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

8 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by akai on January 26, 2016

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

8 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on January 26, 2016

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

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 26, 2016

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

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on January 26, 2016

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

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 26, 2016

MT

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

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

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

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

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 26, 2016

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

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on January 26, 2016

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

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 26, 2016

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

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by redsdisease on January 27, 2016

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

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on January 27, 2016

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

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Entdinglichung on January 27, 2016

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

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 27, 2016

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

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 27, 2016

Entdinglichung

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

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on January 27, 2016

Entdinglichung

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

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 27, 2016

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

;)

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on January 27, 2016

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

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on January 27, 2016

jura

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

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on January 27, 2016

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

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 27, 2016

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

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on January 27, 2016

There might be something in the Collective Agreement Act.

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 27, 2016

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

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on January 27, 2016

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

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 31, 2016

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

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 31, 2016

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

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 31, 2016

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

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on January 31, 2016

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

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on January 31, 2016

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 :)

Let’s see what the next week brings.

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 31, 2016

MT

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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).

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on January 31, 2016

Do you have any ideas that you would propose?

That was a serious question because clearly ISU doesn't know how to use it more to their advantage.

I will not comment on other things, as I would just repeat myself. I am surprised that you found offenses in my post, none were intended. Sorry for that anyway.

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 31, 2016

MT

That was a serious question because clearly ISU doesn't know how to use it more to their advantage.

Well I thought they would organize at least a common demonstration (although probably not in Bratislava, where the nurses haven't managed to get much support, but perhaps in Žilina and Prešov).

But I think an interesting common topic would be nursing schools (I mean high schools for nurses), which I think is what really connects teachers and nurses. I don't have a clear idea of this but there's an argument to be made that these underfunded schools produce skilled nurses who then either end up in shitty jobs or later leave the country (according to older data from a couple of years ago, 50% of graduates from BA nursing programs just leave every year) or find work outside of health care. I don't know if any of these nursing high schools are involved in the strike. There are about 30 of them throughout the country with about 7500 students, mostly in... the Košice and Prešov region (2012 data), which are the ones who are the least involved in the teachers strike (at least relative to population).

MT

I will not comment on other things, as I would just repeat myself. I am surprised that you found offenses in my post, none were intended. Sorry for that anyway.

No offense taken! Probably I just misunderstood you. It came across a bit as if you thought I was too harsh with them or something.

Bambuľka kvantová

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Bambuľka kvantová on February 1, 2016

Hey guys

Thanks so much for this discussion and updates! To me it being defensive or not is not such an issue. People who have invested themselves in struggles do experience them in different ways and there is always someone who is more defensive and others who are less defensive or more critical. But it doesn't matter as long as both sides are genuinely interested in the views of the others and the exchange keeps going, is bringing in various angles etc...
I grew up in a small industrial town in eastern Slovakia where I still have family links and friends. The antipathy towards many 'modern' things arising from the capital city is very common indeed, as you've mentioned (is there a country where this is not the case?:-)) It follows that the bastions of the social-conservative ruling party SMER are regional and I agree that spreading the strike into the regions, especially eastern Slovakia, is the matter of life and death of this movement. The growth of the strike in the regions would smash the government's key propaganda weapon that the strike is a tiny minority protest blown up by the 'liberal caffes' in Bratislava. Combined with the impacts of the departure of hundreds of nurses in eastern Slovakia alone starting from today, this would make the government pretty nervous, just weeks before the next general elections. But even more importantly, this would create a real meeting space for both nurses and teachers to come together, in whatever way... (Teachers are marching in both major centres in the East today, so let's hope to see the nurses' banners in the heat of it!)
The question neither jura or MT have clear answers yet is why the actual participation in the East is so weak, compared to Bratislava or the west of Sloavkia. Knowing some teachers' families there myself, I would agree with all what has been mentioned and perhaps think about two more things. 1. The age composition of the teaching staff: given higher immigration from the East than from the 'West' (myself included:-), there is a likelihood that the share of teachers awaiting their pensions in much higher in the East than in the West. If this is true, then the varying implications for the capacity to strike in both ends of the country are obvious... 2. As there isn't any strike fund yet, the factor of missing wages for the days on strike! Even if the teaching wage levels were pretty much the same across the country, teachers whose spouses/partners have got well paid jobs will find it much easier to go through this period of lost income. And if a real social base of such mixed-income couples exists, then it's in the capital Bratislava and not in the regions... I am wondering of what you think about this. Surely, without having good direct links to relevant people there, it sounds rather speculative. But even though I find similar questions healthy for the future class-strugglist assessments of the present movement.
Now a question for either of you: is there any organizational continuity between this current strike and the teachers' strike in 2012? Has any links between the strikers survived and continued after the defeat in December 2012 please?

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 1, 2016

Hi libcom newcomer;)

I don't have enough information to really judge the factor of age composition. Did you see any statistics that you could share?

What exactly do you mean by "there is a likelihood that the share of teachers awaiting their pensions in much higher in the East than in the West"? That they don't feel the need to strike when it is all over for them soon?

As for the mixed-income couples, yes, this is very common in Bratislava (mostly woman-teacher, man-the "real earner" in the family). But again, this is just observations which can be misleading without some help of statistics. I wouldn't like to claim that this mixed-income couples factor is not present by some miracle in the eastern Slovakia. I mean if you look at the map of strike participation, the Ruthene region is something that hits the eye, so does it mean the Ruthenes don't live in mixed-couples? Just joking, but you know what I mean. Plus there is another thing - it is easier to have two jobs in Bratislava than in any other place in Slovakia (and many teachers do have second jobs).

As for the continuity with 2012 - yes, the continuity is there. For example almost half of the strike committtee members are those who were among the most active teachers in the rolling strikes of December 2012. Their ways parted after 2012 (some joined the professional teachers organization SKU, most just stopped being active in the teachers cause) but met again in autumn 2015 and what is going on now is the result;)

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on February 1, 2016

No demographic data on teachers by region are available, at least none that I could find. It sounds plausible to me that the average age would tend to be higher in the East, and that the average income for (all) couples would be lower there. However, if the average age of teachers is higher there, then their average wage will probably also be a bit higher, due to the way it depends on seniority.

Anyway, another thing that might be useful would be to take a more aggressive approach towards the schools that are not on strike. For example, they could try to organize small demonstrations (composed of teachers and perhaps some students) or marches around schools that are not involved, in the morning or during the day, calling on the teachers inside to join them. I mean if cleaning up the environment or cooking food for the homeless makes sense, then this should make sense as well.

Steven.

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on February 1, 2016

Hi guys, just say thanks again for the additional updates here, and appreciate the level of discussion as well, very interesting stuff.

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 1, 2016

Without demographic data we can just guess. First of all, average age si most probably high also in other regions. By observation you could see this also in Bratislava. You have a few of young teachers and then a few of pre-pension ones. And then you have a lot of those over 40-50. Now take an abstract school in other regions - it will be most probably 2, 3 or more times smaller but the age composition might be pretty much the same. I don't mean to say it is like that, I just would like to point out to this as a possibility that should prevent us from making wrong conclusions without data. To back this up a little more, take the composition based on school subjects. Let me mention a concrete example from a concrete school that is related to IT subjects but could be partly seen also in English subjects. You have a school where IT is taught by young teacher, he/she is dissatisfied and leaves. Another young teacher is hired and it goes the same trajectory. And then an older teacher is hired (perhaps coming from other parts of Slovakia) and doesn't leave. So what you get is that the average age rises. The fluctuation factor makes the analysis even more complicated.

Then, the average income - that is the case in everywhere outside Bratislava region, isn't it? But there is also the factor of average costs, which are lower outside Bratislava.

As for the idea of small demos outside non-striking schools, this idea is there from the beginning of the strike emergency but has not been implemented fully so far (or to the extent that we all would probably wish). This is a negative thing but there are also reasons for it, mostly human capacities (I mean, it is not that the ISU wouldn't want it).

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on February 1, 2016

MT

First of all, average age si most probably high also in other regions.

Yeah, but what I meant was this: when you look at average teachers' wages, i.e. the data that the government showed, they seem to be higher in the East than in Bratislava (and also higher than the average wage in the East for all employees in that region). This could be due to several things, but one of them would be that the teachers in the East are older (in terms of years taught), on average, than the ones in Bratislava. (Look at this chart, for example.) We can have doubts about whether this average is representative of the actual wages of most teachers, but looking at the relative ratios between Bratislava and the East, and as long as those numbers really are averages, then that difference does reflect something, and it could be the different age composition.

(Anyway, I don't think the "pre-pension" factor is too important. But it could be that the – on average – younger teachers in the West are simply more active, have some specific views, including political ones, etc. as opposed to the – on average – older teachers, ages 45+, in the East, who hold more conservative views etc. Also, it probably doesn't help much that at least some teachers in the East earn more than the average for all employees in the region; in a region with 15–17% unemployment etc.)

MT

As for the idea of small demos outside non-striking schools, this idea is there from the beginning of the strike emergency but has not been implemented fully so far (or to the extent that we all would probably wish). This is a negative thing but there are also reasons for it, mostly human capacities (I mean, it is not that the ISU wouldn't want it).

Yeah, I think that's a real pity. It would be preferable to some of the other actions they did for the media.

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on February 1, 2016

I also think that we shouldn't forget that Slovak teachers are, on average, Slovak teachers, i.e., one of the bastions of social conservatism and repression in the country :) (hippie Bratislava teachers notwithstanding...). ;)

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 1, 2016

I see what you mean by the averages, but I am not truly convince. Also, the numbers on the map that you mention have already been criticized for its strange methodology.

Anyway, it is not only statistic data that could help us understand why eastern region is so "strikeless". At this tage I am afraid only a serious field research based on interviews with teachers living there could bring us closer to the answer. Because for example take the region around Rimavska Sobota (27,42 % unemployment rate in December 2015). How is this region different to eastern Slovakia? And the strike affected several schools there (both in towns and villages). And other marginalized regions like Orava and Kysuce? Perhaps we could see some hints when closely looking at the results of last elections (parliamentary and regional) in all those regions.

Let's take into consideration one more thing again. It might not answer our questions (I really believe only the interviews would) but could be valuable. Concrete example - a few ISU teachers visited last week a school some 20 km's from Bratislava (as part of visiting schools that are not on strike but either have someone who contacted ISU to come or there are people who know some teachers and proactively contacted them if there is an interest to come and hear what ISU has got to say). The result was that the majority of the school joined the strike and even started their own local activities! Why only after the visit? Because the teachers in that school only met for the first time as a collective at the assembly. Until then, they were isolated, atomized individuals. Of course, I am not trying to say that people in eastern part of Slovakia don't meet and discuss things collectively, but add another example to this - intimidation. In Humenne (one of the key towns of north-eastern Slovakia) there were reports of intimidation coming from authorities (I think it came from the mayor, who is a high-ranking SMER member and an MP in the parliament) and no school joined the strike. Perhaps if this town joined, it could be a reference point for others to talk about. So, perhaps no-one wants to be the first now. I don't know if this idea really helps, but I guess it is good to mention it.

Bambuľka kvantová

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Bambuľka kvantová on February 1, 2016

Hey again,

Your story about the effect of one visit is very powerful! And yes, I also heard the story about Humenne mayor from friends on fb during the strike in 2012. Ruling parties tend to have strong leverage in regions where workers are left with little options at hand...
I also you could easily combined two methods in order to gain a better insight. One could start with collecting data on household income per regions/districts and then run simple correlation analysis with the degree of strike activity (e.g. proportion of schools on strike out of total number of schools per region/district). Just as an initial indication, and then in the next step the interviews you're suggesting would make a nice meat for the analysis (if there is a correlation, then the interviews would probably be able to highlight the political/subjective factors why teachers do not luckily behave the same everywhere...)
Anyway, thanks for the reply on the continuity thing... Have teachers from the regions been involved in the planning of this latest strike? Has the low participation in the east come as a surprise to ISU cadres? Many thanks and good luck!!!
(Jura, no more jokes about the soft cops please! :-)

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 1, 2016

As for the planning. Before ISU there was IBU (Initiative of Bratislava teachers). Thanks to the events that started in October (happenings, blood donations etc.) more locals were formed and when they were I think 3-4 they decided to create ISU as a sort of umbrella, keeping the locals their autonomy. However, most of the strike committee members are from Bratislava.

Ehm, cadres:) I think it was clear from the beginning that everyone to the east of Bratislava:) will see situation a little bit different than teachers in Bratislava. As teachers started to join but there was still no activity in Košice (second biggest town in Slovakia) or Prešov, it was clear that something has to be done there. That is why strike committee members tried to do what they could to get contacts in Košice and eventually went there (twice) and local initiatives were formed in Košice as well as in Prešov at last. And some schools even joined the strike in Košice despite heavy intimidation.

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on February 1, 2016

I went to the actions today in Bratislava (a demonstration and a public meeting). The meeting was, again, quite interesting:

[*] a person from the ISU clearly affirmed the "anti-political" nature of the strike (i.e., all parties are to blame for the low wages and living standards of teachers; politicians, including the current opposition, are not to be trusted) and was applauded,
[*] a suggestion to organize demos around uninvolved schools was met with approval; turns out people have already done this successfully in Levice (a small town in western Slovakia, pop. 35k); after the meeting, some teachers were exchanging contacts to replicate this in Bratislava,
[*] there was a lot of energy and self-confidence (albeit in a small sample, perhaps 50 people), as well as some touching moments, even for this objective analyst of class composition: a teacher from a nursing high school who's the only one on strike at the school; an English teacher whose kids were given free toys by a salesperson after she learned their mother is on strike; female teachers (who were a majority in the audience) pointing out their wider role in society as women and the pressure they face in their families (due to the strike),
[*] a well-known right-wing intellectual and scientist saying he would never send his kids to a school that wasn't on strike – i.e., if it's not on strike, then he's going to help them strike by reducing the load (here's how fierce anti-communists learn about the importance of the picket line!),
[*] almost everyone who spoke described the transformatory aspects of the strike (how people have gained confidence, opened up, learned to organize and discuss stuff); this is interesting given how fast things are happening, with almost no prior level of organization,
[*] apparently there will be another attempt to involve the universities more closely. But this is problematic for scheduling reasons (it's still two weeks until the summer term starts),
[*] I also have to salute the manner in which these meetings are organized: a short introduction by the ISU people followed by an "open mic" where everyone is able to speak,
[*] but I also have to add something less encouraging: some people still seem to believe that this is winnable "even if just 5000 people are on strike", through popular support and demonstrations (I seem to recall similar ideas from three years ago, from the rolling strike, when one of the teachers involved declared that "it could go on for years")
[*] tomorrow there are two things in Bratislava: a demonstration (@ 2pm) outside the Parliament during proceedings of the committee on education etc. (where 3 or 4 ISU people are invited to discuss with MPs; I'm not sure if the Minister will be there), and a demonstration downtown (@ 5pm) organized by university students in support of the strike; the latter will include some musical performances and stuff. I'm hoping to be able to go to both.

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 1, 2016

Good post jura and it is very nice to read about how you felt at the events. There is a lot of these amazing transformatory effects. And as for today's "human chains" in I guess 14 towns in Slovakia (which might have seemed to us just as media stunts) judging from the reactions (in several towns) it is clear that they had a great psychological/emotional effect. Check out video from Košice in Korzar for what I believe would be more nice impressions;)

Bambuľka kvantová

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Bambuľka kvantová on February 2, 2016

I watched the video from Kosice, great to see 300 people at the demo, but it is still a very small number compared to the total of teachers in Kosice and the district region. I am also a bit worried by the number of charitable events the striking teachers in Kosice decided to carry out this week, e.g. free soups for the homeless, some arts work with disabled kids and youth in different clubs, even clean up in a animal rescue shelter!... Am not convinced these media events are the best way how to raise their power base in schools, as compared to picketing the vast majority of working, opened schools (as Jura had already pointed out).

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 2, 2016

I just would like to remind that we cannot judge things based on what is in the media.

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on February 2, 2016

Brief report on today: The demonstration today was not organized by ISU, but independently – by some university students. The event was aimed at the wider public and wasn't too interesting in terms of speeches, information about the strike etc. There were some teachers, including ones from Detva (central Slovakia, pop. 30k, traditional industrial town; extremely active teachers in the strike), a lot of students, all kinds of people. But in the small class struggle contingent that met there we all agreed that the event was boring :). I'm terrible at these estimates but there were over a thousand people for sure.

I didn't go to the meeting afterwards as it was just one teacher from the ISU and two "experts" from NGOs trying to milk this and talk about "systemic reforms" etc. The teacher who spoke there was later quoted in the newspaper as saying "A part of the teachers can no longer afford to be on strike. The public has taken over the baton now". Not a good thing!

In more encouraging news, the academic senate of the Faculty of Arts (Comenius University in Bratislava, the biggest University in Slovakia) issued a statment calling on the University (i.e., the rector) to come out in support of the strike as well as saying that unless the negotiations between the state and the ISU are successful, the senate will call on the academic community of the Faculty to go on strike for one day. I don't remember anything like this happening before, so even though it's just a threat (and only a one-day strike), this is a good sign.

The fantasy class struggle scenario right now is the University on strike, with spaces occupied and used for meetings with teachers, and university teachers going around elementary and high schools encouraging their colleagues to go on with the strike.

OK, I'm awake again. I will try to go to the meeting tomorrow (@ 4:30pm) which hopefully will again be an "open mic" kind of thing.

BTW, the teachers who were exchanging contacts yesterday to do a mobilization march around some schools in Bratislava are actually doing this tomorrow at 7:30am, at three different schools. So it definitely makes sense to come to these meetings and discuss these "radical" ideas with people. A lot of them seem to expect the ISU to do everything and it's important to encourage them in doing their own activities (especially the more meaningful ones now). So Bambuľka maybe Dedo Jozef could take you to one of these meetings :)

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 2, 2016

Updates:

* Around 200 teachers met in front of the parliament and made noise in support of the ISU delegates that went to the meeting of the Education Committee. As predicted, the minister basically refuted all the topics that were discussed.

* At 17.00 there was a happening organized by university students. I have to say it was pretty boring (I guess because of how it was handled - a speech by someone, 2 songs by some musician - a speech - a musician...). This rapidly changed at the end, when several members of the strike committee went on stage and gave very good speeches in terms of the general mood. It was morale boosting and fun, so finally the impression from those almost 2 hours was quite nice. I read in some media, that 2500 students came. I would say a lot less.

* At 19.00 a debate was organized with a member of ISU strike committee, head of the association of privately owned schools and someone from some NGO or think-thank (sorry for my ignorance). There were bits that I didnt't like much (like the ISU person saying that she personally is a right-winger, as if someone cared...) but the general impression was quite nice. The most critical topics like rationalization of the system (cuts in number of schools or teachers to make the system more effective) were refused by ISU representative saying that quite contrary the fewer the pupils in the class the better and also that the demographic development goes contrary to this idea. Also, all parties agreed that the pay rise is something necessary to make the miserable life of teachers bearable. The ISU representative said that the strike is not about the wages, but this once again points out to what I mentioned earlier that the majority of the debate was exactly about how crucial the wage hikes are:) The event was moderated by a well- known right-wing columnist who I was told wrote anti-doctors articles when they gave mass notices few years ago. Another example of how right-wingers turn pro-strike suddenly when they see that the strike plays well into their anti-SMER pre-election agenda (although I think there are more factors to this). At the end of the event the moderator said that the resources are limited and simply cannot be given to everyone to which the ISU representative said for example that there is a billion € to be spent on coal mines while these money could be used for example for the miners to re-qualify and there still will be a lot of money left for other things. (This reminded me what Greenpeace Slovakia suggested - a life-long wage for the fired miners and closure of the mines instead of further mining). Personally I expected much worse response, so I am not the best person to comment on this but on the other hand there was a clear answer to other similar topic - what the striking teachers propose to improve the system - saying that this is not up to the teachers to tell the government what to do.

* The number of striking teachers continues to decline, but is still above 8000.

* There is a new wave of invitations to schools that do not strike yet. At least in Bratislava region this number is reaching the ISU limits as for the capacities to really cover that.

* And yes, the visits and teacher meetings are done on daily basis from the beginning of the strike, perhaps with the exception of the first day (plus there were such meetings also before the strike).

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on February 2, 2016

MT

And yes, the visits and teacher meetings are done on daily basis from the beginning of the strike, perhaps with the exception of the first day (plus there were such meetings also before the strike).

In my opinion this particular case is a bit different. Apparently it's not organized by the ISU (but by teachers from various schools which are on strike) and it was made publicly known beforehand. I think they should make more of these. They should declare a "day of action" or something for next Monday and organize small marches from school to school from the early morning until afternoon. Not necessarily to discuss with the non-striking teachers (in a formal seeting, like a proper meeting in the sense you mentioned), but to show up as a collective force, with banners and chants, perhaps also some supporters (parents, high school students). This way, the ISU would not necessarily have to be involved (or they might, if they have the capacity). It might also be a good idea to leaflet schools in the morning – this way, they could reach both their non-striking colleagues and parents at once. I'd be up for doing this myself but I think it would be more credible if the teachers did it. Again, it's something people who are not ISU could do (the ISU would just have to write the leaflet). But clearly the key is now to get the people who are on strike but perhaps are not doing anything much in terms of active militancy to further the struggle to do that.

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on February 2, 2016

dabl poust

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 3, 2016

By the way, there is a demo in London in front of the Slovak Embassy:
25 Kensington Palace Gardens, W8 4QY (https://www.facebook.com/events/1713640515520624/)
It is organized by Slovaks living/studying in London if I understood it correctly. They say that banners, balloons, candles or whatever visible is welcome. It is meant especially for Slovaks showing support to what is going in Slovakia but I don't think they would kick out anyone else. A report from London by a libcomer, would be nice, so that we don't rely only on media reports;)

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on February 3, 2016

The Ministry announced today that only 47 schools are still fully closed, with no schools closed in the Nitra and Prešov regions (not good). According to the ISU website, almost 7800 teachers are still on strike from 614 schools. There has been a ~13% drop in participation (in terms of people) from Feb 1 to today.

There was a small silent demonstration in front of the Government Office in Bratislava in the morning. Other demos and meetings are taking place throughout the day in various cities and towns. I will report back from the public meeting which is later today.

BTW, the general response from the intellectual (non-partisan) left to this strike has been disastrous. I had no illusions about Slovak leftists but it's worse than I expected. Almost everyone rejects the strike due to "bad timing" which does not follow the "established rules" of the "standard legislative process". Many parrot the line about the strike being a political stunt of the opposition. Some even come close to the theories about this being instigated by foreign powers, in the style of the Ukrainian "Orange Revolution". It's an understatement to say that these leftist views are a mirror image of the right-wing reactions to the doctors' struggle in 2011. Of course, none of these left-wing sociologists, journalists and experts on gender mainstreaming or social exclusion came to any of the public meetings in Bratislava, where they could have talked to the allegedly "manipulated" teachers. I mean... can you believe it? A self-described feminist disapproving of the largest social mobilization of (mostly) working women in modern Slovak history (which is not in the name of anti-women policies as in the case of the "Alliance for the Family", an anti-LGBT and anti-abortion outfit).

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 3, 2016

I guess around noon there was a joint press conference of ISU committee representatives and representatives of the professional and union organizations that organized the mass notices of nurses and midwives. They demand that an emergency meeting of parliament is called, so that acts to improve the wages of nurses and midwises (as a starting point) and wages of the teachers (and other demands) are implemented before the elections. ISU called for such a meeting already some days ago and now they did it once again with the representatives of nurses and widwives.

Edit: ISU member said at the press conference that there is still 200 schools that are closed or severely crippled by the strike.

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on February 3, 2016

The use of "flying pickets" (well, sort of) is bearing some fruit: yesterday, in Banská Bystrica (central Slovakia, pop. 80k), 15 striking teachers turned up outside the building of a high school to sing "Gaudeamus Igitur", a traditional academic song used at graduation ceremonies, to taunt their colleagues who are not on strike. The school had been in limited operation, so at that time (10:30), the final class was about to end. About a hundred students then came out to meet the singing teachers.

Entdinglichung

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Entdinglichung on February 3, 2016

jura

The use of "flying pickets" (well, sort of) is bearing some fruit: yesterday, in Banská Bystrica (central Slovakia, pop. 80k), 15 striking teachers turned up outside the building of a high school to sing "Gaudeamus Igitur", a traditional academic song used at graduation ceremonies, to taunt their colleagues who are not on strike. The school had been in limited operation, so at that time (10:30), the final class was about to end. About a hundred students then came out to meet the singing teachers.

funny, in Germany, Gaudeamus Igitur is mostly sung by student fraternities (which are mostly rightwing and always elitist), can't imagine the song becoming part of emancipatory protest culture there

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 3, 2016

It seems that the opposition parties agreed to call an emergency parliamentary meeting. (Which was later described by the prime minister as "another feud without any possibility to agree on financial decisions")

The prime minister just said in the special press conference (called "the final statement of the government regarding the strike") that he thanks the majority of the teachers who did not strike and declared for the millionth time that they will raise wages by 25% in next 4 years if they be those who form the government. Plus he tried to frame the future debate on possible further pre-election actions that it is simply an opposition affair. He just repeated the same line that has been told by the government so far. The only change is that it was wrapped as "the final statement":)

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 3, 2016

Entdinglichung

jura

The use of "flying pickets" (well, sort of) is bearing some fruit: yesterday, in Banská Bystrica (central Slovakia, pop. 80k), 15 striking teachers turned up outside the building of a high school to sing "Gaudeamus Igitur", a traditional academic song used at graduation ceremonies, to taunt their colleagues who are not on strike. The school had been in limited operation, so at that time (10:30), the final class was about to end. About a hundred students then came out to meet the singing teachers.

funny, in Germany, Gaudeamus Igitur is mostly sung by student fraternities (which are mostly rightwing and always elitist), can't imagine the song becoming part of emancipatory protest culture there

I think it is just a matter of a tradition and the lyrics are simply interpreted as a homage to the academy/teachers. But who knows, I never understood why people sing this thing:)

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on February 3, 2016

Tonight there are plenty of meetings organized by the individual elementary and high schools – mostly oriented towards parents and explaining the situation to them. I went to an open meeting in a bookstore/cafe. The turnout was quite small (not more than 30 people), mostly elementary school teachers, only a few (2 or 3) parents. There was a representative of the ISU, but the meeting itself was organized independently.

There was a brief introduction by the ISU person, followed by an open mic. Most of the teachers used this to talk about individual experience, not so much with the strike as with the general situation (underfunded schools, teachers' living standards, difficult children). One of the teachers read a short excerpt from an NY Times article about the strike. At the end, everyone sang "Gaudeamus igitur".

Random notes:

[*] if your children go to a kindergarten, they have to bring a "hygiene package" at the beginning of each term, which includes a roll of toilet paper, soap and napkins. Parents also have to provide a pack of office paper (500pcs each); this is something unimaginable for my generation who had everything provided for them at virtually no cost;
[*] everyone was deeply disgusted with the Prime Minister's speech today in which he basically shut off any further discussion (see MT's post above),
[*] a private Waldorf school participates in the strike, the teachers came to the meeting to express solidarity,
[*] there was an interesting discussion of the unpaid "affective labor" (the term wasn't used, of course) teachers expend,
[*] many teachers mentioned how much extra unpaid time they put in, including time of their relatives (i.e., their husbands often help out at school in various ways, like repairs and stuff),
[*] there were teachers from a "special school" (for children with disabilities) who spoke about the specific needs of their schools and the lack of personnel (I was very impressed with how they spoke, it was clearly spontaneous but sounded almost like a rehearsed speech),
[*] one aspect I hadn't noticed before was how everyone (ISU, but also the other teachers) emphasizes the right to education for everyone; they explain their demand for more funds for schools primarily in terms of parents not having to pay for so much extra stuff – i.e., the goal is to provide education which is really for free, not just formally as it is now; in retrospect I think this should have been emphasized more as it is directly related to material needs;
[*] there's a divide between the ISU (the strike committee) and the teachers; a teacher asked about what the next steps could be (given the PM's dismissive attitude) and was told to wait until the ISU discuss this (I understand the divide is probably inevitable in the current situation, but it's a problem); there was no further discussion of what could be done (although I know for a fact that some rank-and-file teachers are discussing road blockades or occupying the Ministry),
[*] there are hopes of connecting with the universities somehow (let's see what comes out of the Faculty of Arts meeting on Monday),
[*] I noticed a lot of these teachers were at the previous meetings, clearly there's a core of most active collectives,
[*] generally the mood was sort of pensive and about sharing, not very militant. Probably the meetings at particular schools were different in this respect,
[*] we have to get out of these expensive cafes, I spent € 2 for an espresso!

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on February 3, 2016

MT, you have to get a report from one of the meetings in Košice or elsewhere in the East and post a translation.

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 3, 2016

what what?:)

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on February 3, 2016

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 3, 2016

I was given a word that something will be written here, but you know how it is with fairytale creatures that forget their passwords:)

fingers malone

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by fingers malone on February 3, 2016

Hey just to say that this thread is really interesting, thanks

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on February 4, 2016

I don't have much news to add today, only that the decline in teachers currently on strike has slowed down a bit (but it's still there). Almost 7400 are still on strike from almost 600 schools. I don't think the Ministry released a figure of schools that are closed down today. There are many meetings at schools tonight, aimed mostly at parents. I've read something about a large demonstration in Bratislava on Feb 10, but it hasn't been announced yet. No actions seem to be planned in Bratislava for tomorrow.

Edit: According to the Ministry, 43 schools were completely shut down today.

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on February 6, 2016

On Friday, 34 schools were closed according to the Ministry. Today's ISU figures are 6576 teachers on strike from 576 schools

Bambuľka kvantová

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Bambuľka kvantová on February 7, 2016

What's the situation like in the regions? Any direct info from contacts? Have the strikers managed to build a strike fund yet? I can't imagine this going on in the poor regional schools without some kind of material grassroots support...
Unbelievable that this is happening for two weeks now, in a passive country such as Slovakia! I am gutted that I can't be much help as I live in the UK now... :-(

majo

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by majo on February 7, 2016

As far as I know, there is this initiative for financial help from the public: pomoz.sk, which is being endorsed by ISU, but is seen as an independent initiative.
Meanwhile, there are currently 600 nurses who quit job, most of them in regions -- Presov and Zilina. Perhaps a trivia to the above discussion of the role of party-politics influence on this current struggles (eastern Slovakia being alleged stronghold of SMER, Bratislava liberal): I have just read that according to some polls, larger part of population agrees with their strike then with the one of teachers. The government is not willing to negotiate anything with the nurses (just as with the teachers), but my impression is, that the PM adopted somehow more tamed rhetoric.
But I am unfortunately also relying on information and impressions from media only.

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on February 8, 2016

The meeting today at the Faculty of Arts (Comenius University in Bratislava) was attended by about 200 – 250 people (according to media reports), mostly university teachers (various faculties) and students, but also a sizable group of ISU people and striking teachers. Some of the speeches weren't too good, but the important thing is that shortly after the public meeting, the "Initiative of University Teachers" (IVU) was founded with its own strike committee. This could mean that some of the universities will soon join the striking elementary and high school teachers – the question is if it's not too late.

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on February 8, 2016

BTW, the problem with Pomoz.sk is that they have collected over €40k but the teachers are apparently too ashamed to ask for the money.

Bambuľka kvantová

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Bambuľka kvantová on February 8, 2016

Hi
amazing news from the academic/student meeting! On what grounds is the uni strike being considered? As purely in solidarity with teachers or including some other demands?
I looked at the support website that Majo posted, thank you. For non-Slovak readers: teachers can claim a partial reimbursement of their living costs while on strike. They just need to fill in an individual online form, clearly stating their personal and family circumstances and get it confirmed by a strike coordinator at the given school. Great tool but I can see why some teachers may feel embarrassed about it. An alternative could be collecting these claims among the staff and claiming it collectively per school, and dividing it between themselves afterwards... but I guess the painful issue of talking about your money and debt situation with colleagues would still remain, or would even be worse for some than doing it individually online.
Thanks for updates!

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on February 9, 2016

I believe it's supposed to be a pure sympathy strike. We'll see what the plan is in the next few days. For Slovak readers, here's an informative clip from the meeting.

Here's a full unedited video of yesterday's speeches.

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 9, 2016

And check out the statements of ISU and IVU (latest three pieces in the Press releases section on www.isu.sk - in Slovak only). I recommend especially the video version because it contains also questions from the media.

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 10, 2016

A happening was called for today at Námestie SNP square in Bratislava city center. It was meant to be a kind of "thank you" event to celebrate the ending of the strike and its continuity in regards to the university teachers. Compared to the previous students demo this was much better in terms of general mood, speeches and numbers (I would say there was at least as many people as on the first demo, when the strike was announced).

There was an idea on Facebook by some parents to organize marches to the city center and I think 4 city quarters joined. I took part in one of the marches of parents, teachers, students and people from the neighbourhood. It started after a speech of one of the parents (an independent local (civic activist) politician as I was told later) that I have to say was very touching and there were even tears on some faces (it was a homage to the teachers who stood up and said that they are not satisfied with things and took action). A crowd of slightly more than 100 people then walked approximately 5 kilometres to the city center and grew to about 130 by the time we reached the square with a main banner simply saying "Thank you, teachers. A march in support of the teachers". To be honest, I did not expect such a big number of people in the march. I also did not expect the number of people already in the square (my guess would be about 1500-2000). There were teachers and students from different parts of Slovakia (another unexpected thing for me).

Among other things, the people from IVU strike committee repeated that if the demands are not fulfilled the universities will start an indefinite solidarity strike on Monday next week for the demands put forward by ISU. There is a mobilization going on these days in the universities and it is already clear that several faculties of the Faculty of Arts (Comenius University in Bratislava) would take part in the strike. The ISU website was updated and university teachers can use it now to register themselves as strikers.

There are already rumours about intimidation at the universities but I would not take them for a fact at the moment (although they are probable).

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 10, 2016

Btw., the media published several pre-election polls and all of them show that SMER is going down since the beginning of the strike (but still above 30%). It might not be correct to put this into correlaction with the strike because other "scandals" of the ruling party ahve been exposed in recent weeks, but I would say that the capitalists behind the party could become nervous in next few weeks if enough universities or faculties really go on strike.

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 10, 2016

I forgot to mention a proposal by a representative of the Initiative of Slovak Parents. He said in his speech that they ask parents not to send their kids to school on Fridays until the government starts negotiations with the teachers and that they will wear green ribbons until the elections. The idea of not sending kids to school has beenh debated for some time by parents. It has some legal limitations (simply put, it is illegal to keep your child at home) but there are also ways how to at least partially really go on with this legally. I have not been following this initiative, so I can't say how widespread it is and how many parents are really taking part.

Bambuľka kvantová

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Bambuľka kvantová on February 10, 2016

Just a minor correction and clarification: After three weeks the strike has been suspended, not ended, and as of Monday next week the strike relay baton is going to be passed on to the university staff and students. NO UNIONS involved, everything self-organized...

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 12, 2016

Yesterday, an emergency parliamentary meeting took place dedicated to teachers and nurses and midwives. Long story short - I would say it was just a show for politicians to score some election points. In the end SMER refused opposition proposals and passed their own. I don't think anyone expected a solution from this meeting, though. The meeting lasted for about 16 hours and ended at 2.30 AM:) There was also a scandal because the balcony that public can enter during parliamentary meetings was squatted by SMER's "fanclub" consisting of aggressive pensioners but also some guys in their 20's.

Meanwhile, preparations for the beginning of the strike of university teachers are going quite well so far, but no relevant numbers are known yet except that teachers from 14 universities out of 19 have registered already. You can see the list here: http://isu.sk/zoznam-vysokych-skol/. The rest of the schools in the list are not "proper univestities" (I think colleges is not the proper term either).

IVU teachers and ISU teachers are in touch and sharing skills and knowledge where needed. There are ideas for various activities oriented towards the students and "general public" which could cover interesting topics that were not so present during the actions of ISU. I would not like to say that they are more political, as it is a rather broad term, but while ISU activities were more oriented towards parents and general conditions of teachers, in case of IVU we might see more let's say "structural and in-depth" debates with practical implications as well.

As for the initiative of parents that I mentioned in earlier posts, it seems that these are mainly parents from quite a prestige (not privately owned) elementary school. Anyway, today they kept their promise and from out of 714 pupils 504 did not come to school! This is info only from one school. I don't know how widespread their appeal has been, perhaps they will publish the numbers, if they have them.

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 14, 2016

ISU statement on suspending the strike and shifting to strike emergency

9th February 2016

Initiative of Slovak Teachers would like to first and foremost thank to 15 thousand pedagogic and specialized employees from almost a thousand of schools, who decided to show their discontent with the situation in education sector and undignified status of teachers by joining the strike. Every sixth teacher in Slovakia has participated in the strike so far. Thank you for withstanding and still keeping on!

Parents, you showed us an enormous support. Our gratitude goes to you for understanding and patience. On the other hand, we understand those of you who have heavy heart at us. However, we believe that you understand that we are on the same boat and our attempts mean a fight for better education, so that your children are happy to go to school and so that you yourselves don’t have to sponsor the school by buying everything from chalk to interactive table.

Also, we would like to thank all the trustors and headmasters that stand behind us with courage during these hard weeks. The support from union and professional organization is of great help to us. The support from thousands of parents, students, members of academia and others confirmed that our problems are not just professional but affect the whole society.

The ISU strike fully revealed the inability of the Minister of Education Mr. Draxler, who did not stand up for the teachers’ demands although repeatedly proclaiming their legitimacy. The strike also revealed utter cynicism of the Prime Minister, who instead of using his position to resolve the problems, focused on discrediting the organizers of the strike and manipulation of statistics, while more than 150 000 children were left without proper education activities or in an emergency mode.

The strike was a chance for the OZPŠaV union and its chairman Mr. Ondek to rehabilitate in teachers’ eyes for the bad handling of the 2012 strike. Unfortunately, the biggest union did not support us. Despite repeated statements of Mr. Ondek that his members can consider joining the strike, he tolerated antistrike campaign accompanied with spreading lies and threats on the lower levels of the organizational structure.

The strike has revealed one unacceptable fact to us. Although a quarter century since the Velvet Revolution in 1989 passed, totalitarian methods persist in the society reflecting itself in particular in relationship between trustor - headmaster - teacher. There were cases of intimidation across the country that have no place in democratic society.

The length of the strike makes it a historical event in Slovak history and its spontaneous organization is unique on a European level. It was organized without financial backing, political affiliation and support from the largest union, which showed that there are thousands of teachers, child care workers and specialized employees who are so much dissatisfied that, in the name of improving the situation in the education sector, are willing to waive a significant part of their income and are fighting to solve the problems they have suffered for so long.

We can say, based on hundreds of meetings, that together we were able to bust a long-time myth that teachers are passive puppets who do what are told to. Those 15 thousand strikers showed to their pupils, to the parents and in fact to the whole society how to fight in a cultivated and creative way not only for their right to dignified financial evaluation but also for the right of every child to quality education in a didactically stimulating environment.

Our strike is successful already now:
• Education has become a social topic. Teachers, public and parents are organizing, getting active, meet and talk about problems they directly face.
• After more than 25 years the society came to life without being mobilized from above and without being controlled by political or power interests.
• We have raised our voice and pointed out at many undignified, manipulative and intimidating practices in education.
• We have been able to unite and stick together.
• We have met colleagues from other schools, created a network of active pedagogues. Thanks to mutual contacts we are able to better cooperate on local as well as state-wide level.
• We have learned a lot. The strike became a school to us. We gained self-confidence, self-consciousness and ability to publicly express our opinions despite intimidation. From now on each future struggle will be easier for us.
• We proved that there is a “societal demand” to solve the problems of education HERE and NOW and not some day in the future.

We called todays’ press conference to announce that the Strike Committee of ISU decided to suspend the strike from Monday 15th February 2016 and shift to strike emergency. At the same time we are very happy that from that day the strike relay baton will be taken by university pedagogues.

We would like to point out that this is not an end. We go on. We will actively pursue fulfillment of strike demands during strike emergency, point out at the shortcomings in Slovak education sector and in particular mobilize school public.

This definitely is not an end. From Monday we return behind teacher’s desk. But the returning teachers will never be the same teachers that left the desk over two weeks ago. Slovakia is not a poor country. It doesn’t have to and MUST NOT save on education. Such saving could cost us a lot as a society in the future.

Tomorrow we continue at 17.00 at Námestie SNP square in Bratislava with a demonstration called ZRPŠ - let’s start addressing the education in the first place. Parents from several city districts organize marches to the place of the demonstration.

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 14, 2016

Statement of the Strike Committee of the Initiative of University Teachers (IVU)

9th February 2016

Following the meeting of academia that was organized by the Academic Senate of the Faculty of Arts of the Comenius University on 8th February 2016, an Initiative of University Teachers (IVU) was formed in Bratislava that formed its Strike Committee. IVU called on the academia in Slovakia to support the striking teachers.

IVU expresses its support and admiration to 15 thousand teachers who have joined the strike so far. At the same time we attach ourselves to the demands of the Initiative of Slovak Teachers (ISU) and from this day we declare a strike emergency in support of striking teachers. Our preliminary 16-members strong Strike Committee consists of university teachers from 10 faculties from several Slovak universities.

IVU does not put forward any own demands. We fully identify with the demands of ISU and call on the Slovak government to fulfill them. If the government does not fulfill ISU demands, we are ready to take the strike relay baton from the teachers and child care workers in kindergarten, elementary and high schools.

If ISU demands are really not fulfilled, we call on all the university teachers and scientific members to join an indefinite strike from Monday 15th February 2016, which means from the day when the summer semester starts at most of the universities.

In the next few days teachers and scientific members will be able to register as strike emergency participants and strikers on the ISU website (http://www.isu.sk). All the information about next steps will be shortly available at the same link.

We call on Slovak academia to join our initiative. We call on all the students of Slovak universities to publicly act in support of striking teachers and, if necessary, actively support the strike of their university pedagogues. We think that our activities and practical solidarity will lead to higher quality of education in Slovakia which we consider as absolutely necessary.

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 14, 2016

IVU leaflet “Why university students should go on strike”

1. By supporting the strike of university teachers we indirectly show gratitude to our teachers from high and elementary schools. It is to their credit that we are university students now.

2. Strike is an opportunity to practice the values that are characteristic of the university as an institution. It will be a period of intensive and critical discussions, new contacts, social engagement.

3. Some of us would like to become teachers at elementary or high schools or at university or work in the field of science and research. By supporting the strike, we add up to the effort to change the attitude of Slovak society towards the value of education and knowledge.

4. Students community is – not only in Slovak society – a traditional bearer of change and progressive thoughts. Neither today should it stay aside.

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 14, 2016

IVU leaflet on strike

1. The strike of teachers in regional education is, after years of ignorance by the government power, legitimate and just. If teachers need help, it is right to offer it to them. And who else is to support them if not their colleagues on the further education level?

2. The quality of high school graduates reflects directly onto the quality of applicants for university study. If we want to improve the quality of our applicants, there has to be a change in remuneration and financing already on the level of the high schools. That is what the Initiative of Slovak Teachers demands.

3. Teachers at the elementary and high schools are graduates of university teacher courses where we work. Let’s be in solidarity with our former students!

4. The way the society perceives teachers, including those at elementary and high schools, is closely related to how it perceives university pedagogues and scientists. If we want our social status to be improved, we have to support the improvement of the status of our colleagues in regional education.

5. The value the society gives to the education strongly affects the way it perceives the science and research. If we want more young people to be interested in working in the field of science and research, the status of teachers has to change.

6. Strike has a strong moral dimension. Our colleagues from regional education were targets of ignorance, intimidation and defamation. If we don’t stand up against this now, we will be the targets next time.

7. Yes, let’s speak about the future: contacts that we establish between us now and the experience that we gain during the strike organizing will help us enormously when we will try to push ahead our own demands related to wages, conditions and social status.

8. Solidarity that we show today will not be forgotten. We can find a strong ally in the future: at least 15 thousand employees in regional education. We have never acted side by side till this time. Let’s try it!

9. Let’s tear down the wall between us and students. Show them that we are able to socially engage in topics that concern us, and approach them as partners in dialogue.

10. Let’s bust the myth about university as an ivory tower. Turn it into a place of open discussions. The public has to have an opportunity to hear our voice.

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 14, 2016

I have translated the above mentioned four texts into English today as I think it is important not only to write reports on what's going on but to mention also how the ISU (and now also IVU) view the strike. In case you don't understand something, it could be caused by my imperfect English, so do not hesitate to ask for clarification;)

The schedule for next week is almost full and there will be meetings of university teachers and alternative lectures in several cities. There is also a meeting of the parents initiative tomorrow. I hope to be able to attend some of the scheduled activities although most of them are during the working hours:( But I hope other libcomers will write reports from those activities and will not be hesitant to write in English despite it's not their native language;)

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 15, 2016

Today I went to meetings of teachers, students and ISU representatives at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics and the Faculty of Arts of Comenius University in Bratislava.
I thought that as today is the beginning of semester only a few students would show up at 9.00, so my expectations were that 20 students would be a success at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics. In the end, the room was almost packed and I counted slightly more than 150 attendees (majority of them students). The presentation of ISU representative was about how it all began, so the whole process that started in 2012 with rolling strike was explained. Then there were some questions from the students and the debate part was very good also because one of the university teachers who was supposed to be a moderator took an active part and added his experience when he was a high school teacher.
The dean of the faculty is supportive of the strike, so he offered one of the biggest meeting rooms for the purpose of the strike. To make it even easier, the students could sign a presence list and if they don’t go to their regular lessons but attend strike meetings they could be excused. That means that the signatures will be stored and kept secret and only if some teachers cause trouble to the absentees, the dean will check the names on the list and if the students really attended strike meetings, they will be excused.
So, all in all, there was a very nice and also fun atmosphere.

I looked forward to the Faculty of Arts and raised my expectations to 70-100 attendees. The meeting started at 11.00 and by that time the meeting room was basically full and people still kept coming. In the end I counted almost 300 people (again, mostly students). This meeting was more like an official media event related to taking the strike relay baton from the ISU. Then there was an open mic and quite a lot of people spoke.

In both faculties I heard teachers (in private talks or openly on mic) mentioning (although shortly) 1968 and/or 1989. Some mentioned what they did back then, some saw similarities in regards to the society on the move for a change. You could really feel that they think that what is going on creates changes.

In both of the meetings the bad situation (=primarily low wages and bad working conditions) of teachers was the main topic, which was sometimes really touching, especially in the context of personal stories about how people would really like to teach but cannot live a life in dignity.

I am curious about the alternative meetings during the strike and hopefully there will be some first-hand accounts here, although not by me because as I already mentioned, most of the activities are during the working hours.

Bambuľka kvantová

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Bambuľka kvantová on February 16, 2016

Thanks for the update! I find it really hard to find any info in the media or even at isu.sk website these days. The media in general present the strike as marginal, apparently only 400 lecturers out of 11.000 in Slovakia joined in.
And I also noticed that the three striking lecturers at the university in Kosice said they would continue teaching while on strike, but giving up their wage... Is that for real?! Sounds really stupid to me.

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 16, 2016

I think it is not worthwile to concentrate on minor things (unless they are indicative of something really important). I haven't heard about the mentioned case, but can imagine it is true. I don't follow TV, only some online media, so I am not sure what type of info you lack, but I recommend to contact ISU with any ideas or comments.

vasil2

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by vasil2 on February 16, 2016

Košice: They are striking and having "strike lectures" - explaining their students reasons why they are in strike and inviting them to the meetings instead of regular lecture.

Today there was a meeting in UPJŠ - Faculty of natural sciences with guests from IKU (iniciative of teachers from Košice - part of ISU) explaining situation in schools, their reasons to strike, actions they organised during 3 weeks of strike and possibilities of strike in elementary, high schools and universities There were striking Universitz teachers and students. Nice moments were when some of their collegues announced that they are entering strike from today and tomorrow awarding them with applause. There were around 50 students.

One more group of students at Technical Univeristy (not paedagological studies!) is organising meetings in student dormitories and planning some activities during the strike starting in thursday (which is late a bit).
At Universitz of Pavol Jozef Šafárik (UPJŠ) They are planning to organise meeting with academics to express that they have not simmiliar opinion with the dean. Not shure if they will enter the strike.
All in all the experience and skills with organising both students and university teacers is still in the cradle. But i see a possitive light with building a net of contacts at the end of the tunnel.s.

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 16, 2016

Here is one more translation of ISU statement.

ISU balance sheet

15th February 2016

Initiative of Slovak Teachers would like to present the balance sheet of the longest strike in the history of Slovakia:

During the three weeks approximately 15 thousand teachers from 1000 schools joined the strike. More than 400 thousand hours of classes were not taught.

The strike was accompanied by:

• 17 demonstrations and marches (Bratislava 3x, Košice 2x, Banská Bystrica, Levice, Nové Zámky, Topoľčany, Nitra, Martin, Ružomberok, Poprad, Hlohovec, Brussels, London, Brno),

• Human chains in 17 cities (Bratislava, Košice, Prešov, Žilina, Martin, Banská Bystrica, Nitra, Poprad, Prievidza, Trenčín, Trnava, Partizánske, Lučenec, Pezinok, Topľčany, Rimavská Sobota, Komárno) attended by approximately 12 thousand people.

• 7 concerts, more than 15 charity actions (cooking and helping the homeless, blood donations, cleaning public spaces), hundreds of meetings and discussions at schools, caffes, libraries or bookshops for teachers, parents but also citizens in which thousands of people participated. It is possible that we were not informed about all support actions.

• Initiative of Slovak Teachers published more than 30 statements, open letters or press releases addressed to the Minister, Prime Minister, union, universities and church schools, Human Rights Court of Justice in Strasburg, EU Chairman or Commissioner for Human education, as well as balance sheets and responses to untrue information.

• ISU sent 306 474 emails. Of these 200 718 were read and people clicked on 20 004 links during the three weeks of strike.

• Initiatives of parents and students were formed pursuing our demands. Massive support from known figures and organizations is still growing: http://isu.sk/podporuju-nas.

• Initiative of Slovak Teachers was supported by 9809 people via an e-form.

Education became an important social and political topic thanks to the strike, and there is a consensus among experts that the problems have to be solved. Despite being reproached by opponents of the strike for our informality, we consider the fact that pedagogic and specialized employees joing the strike only because of their own conviction as a key moment that speaks of the acuteness of the accumulated problems in Slovak education system.

Bambuľka kvantová

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Bambuľka kvantová on February 16, 2016

Thanks for your replies! I've just listened to a radio interview with a member of IVU strike committee from yesterday and he nicely summed it up: This solidarity strike is breaking down the long established barriers between different types of education employees across the country. From now on, each new government will be facing a stronger, more unified adversary. He also said that mobilization of other types of public sector workers for their own interests is entirely legitimate and welcome.
I also watched a short video from an assembly at the Faculty of Arts, Comenius University, with an academic from the Department of Politics similarly talking about the joint interests of teachers from all levels of the education system.

I wish them, and to us too, a steep learning curve! As some teachers are saying now: "We got back to school... The strike became a school for us!" :-)

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on February 17, 2016

Here's some information in English, including an interview with an ISU member and one of the IVU strike committee members:

http://www.rtvs.sk/radio/archiv/1487/395507

The relevant part starts at about 04:34 and includes a general introduction of the wider context.

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 17, 2016

I managed to attend two meetings today. One was at Faculty of Arts about the everyday life of a teacher and the other one in the main aula that is used by several faculties of Comenius University in a nearby building (three speeches of some professors).

At the first meeting around noon 3 ISU teachers and 1 IVU teacher (as a moderator) participated. Teachers spoke about how they became teachers and what they do. Among the topics that were raised in the following debate were mainly:

- Feminization of the sector and its historical roots. This was quite an interesting short speech of a sociologist (who joined the strike) about how it is related to the post-war boom in primary sectors of the economy and in industry. In the 50's the wage gap started to show and education became a rapidly feminized sector, which it still is.

- Inovations. People spoke about how the system is limiting them, about the attitude on the side of the kids and parents to just go for good marks and then diploma (in contrast with for example Finland where kids are evaluated by other methods than marks and how this was tried in one of the Slovak schools where the ISU member teaches and met with hostile response of parents, who however changed their mind after some time and welcome this step), about some teachers who are not able to attract kids to enjoy learning etc.

- Behaviour of kids these days. Mostly good experiences were mentioned by teachers but the debate was also about kids who are able to destroy the learning atmosphere in the classroom and methods how to solve such situations.

Very nice and friendly debate and atmosphere with slightly more than 50 people (mostly students) in the room for most of the time.

As for the evening debate, the aula was full which should be around 350 people (mostly students again). I had to leave during the second speech, but the first speech was about how teachers should have good values, how we should be proud of our alma mater, how every society needs to build elites etc. Arrggh. I left the place very soon:) Then there was something which I guess was about material conditions. I saw some photos of school buildings in a bad shape, but after the first speech I preferred to rather chat outside the aula, so I really can't say what the remaining two speeches were about.

As for the other news. The number of universities where there is at least one teacher who joined the strike rose to 18. The ISU website now informs about concrete faculties that are affected: http://isu.sk/zoznam-vysokych-skol/

Students are trying to mobilize but I can't tell about anything significant yet. There are some problems now in Košice because of some rector or dean, who refuses to give permission to use the spaces of the university for other than teaching purposes (vasil can correct me, I am not completely sure, if I understood it correctly).

Teachers from different faculties that are not on strike are trying to meet to decide if they join, so we have to see how successful are these meetings. I think on Tuesday or Monday evening teachers from 15 universities participated and you see today it is 18. On the other hand the numbers are rather low, but I forgot the exact numbers compared to the number of all uni teachers in Slovakia. But I guess they grow and it doesn't seem that the strike is about to end yet.

There is a demonstration tomorrow (besides many other things) in Bratislava. I am very curious about how many people come.

Bambuľka kvantová

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Bambuľka kvantová on February 17, 2016

Vasil2, can you clarify whether this harassment letters from university leadership in Kosice and Presov is being effective? Is it discouraging people to join in? Someone posted such a letter on the IVU fb and the university vice chancellor (that's I think a British equivalent to his top position) is even asking the members of staff who are not striking to cover the classes for their striking colleagues! So, in other words, scabbing! But has he got an effective power to stop striking activity in the building? As far as I know, one of the academic liberties achieved during the Czechoslovakian revolution in November 1989 was the autonomy of university as an institution, including a ban on the police to enter the premises. So he can't call in the cops... I guess it's mainly a psychological weapon and it would be great if the strikers from Bratislava managed to make it to the East to support the fledgling strike over there (if needed).

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 18, 2016

Around 1000 people at the demo in Bratislava today. I would say that mostly university students. Several faculties had their own banners. Not really an impressive event. One of the guest speakers (a professor) had a speach that young people should take part in elections next month because lesser evil is better than bigger evil (which, of course meant, that people should vote against SMER, which of course means that they should vote centrist or rightwing parties). I think this was the first time at a public event that I've heard a speaker openly calling people to vote (at least in Bratislava, but I may be wrong, as I did not follow evertyhing).

There is at least one teacher from 19 universities on strike currently and more faculties are joining in. Some of the teachers, however, teach at the same time, so it is more of a symbolic gesture from them.

The strike for the 3 demands (see initial post) will continue next week, which means it will enter its 5th week.

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on February 18, 2016

Yeah, unfortunately there was quite a lot of electoralist propaganda today. The movement is extremely contradictory. On the one hand, the demands are proletarian in terms of content – higher wages, equality of access to education, better working conditions – but on the other hand, the form is often bourgeois. Throughout all of this I keep swinging from being fascinated and disgusted by it. The good things (on the most general level) that can still come out of it are: 1. a nationwide wildcat strike is possible with some effort, 2. a solidarity wildcat strike is possible, too. I hope these two messages are not washed out by the election circus.

jura

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on February 18, 2016

BTW it was interesting to hear the letter from Hungarian university teachers today. (They're protesting too because of Orban's attacks on academic freedom.) It mentioned a previous (successful) fight against the introduction of tuition fees at universities. There was a similar fight some 12 years ago in Slovakia (likewise successful). I wonder how many people noticed this and made the connection. Some of the parties that are supposedly the "lesser evil" would make students pay for college before you can say "fee".

vasil2

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by vasil2 on February 18, 2016

- Letters from Dean. - the first protester, member of strike commitee, who took emotional speech in Bratislava about necessarity of joining the strike recieved a letter from dean. Other two of her collegues went to meet the dean and had a talk with her. It seems that nothing special happened and they still continue in strike. The number of striking teachers is growing slowly, but still growing. There is a "good word" or non official promisse that they can use all the "free rooms" at university for discussions from the rector.

- At philosophycal faculty they were not allowed to teach (since they wanted to have their "strike lessons" for free) and book the rooms. Fortunately the situation in Natural Science faculty is OK and we are using their rooms for meetings

- students apathy - there are two passionate groups of students trying to find ways to their collegues and teachers by meeting them and "everyday talking" but there is still small number of students joining the discussions. But they are encouraging each other in very emotional way. New - third group of students is forming at Department of arts hoping to "use some methods of anarchist tradition" (end of quote) :) so i am really looking foreward to their creativity.

- the biggest problem for me in this situation is, that they are not trying to form a net of active contacts and some kind of strike commitee with regular meetings and planning the events for the future. Everything is made and prepared last minute so there is very short time to spread the information.

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 20, 2016

Good to hear these relatively good news from Košice!

Here are some updates mostly but not solely related to Bratislava:

The initiative of parents that refuses to send their kids to school on Fridays continued today and the number of kids more than doubled compared to last week (numbers are known for two schools in Bratislava and it is altogether 1252 kids compared to 504 last Friday). (At least in Bratislava it could be partly explained by the fact that 3 faculties opened their spaces for the kids and prepared lectures.)

As of today you can see the number of uni teachers on strike on www.isu.sk along with the number of universities where there is at least one teacher on strike (currently it is 492/19).

Some comments to jura:

As for the anti-tuition fight, that is quite an interesting thing to me, because I feel like if this episode is completely forgotten. Even I haven't thought about it as something that could be of any relevance with what is going on now (I was an active participant in the organizing and mobilization of the anti-tuition struggle;) And I am still not sure if it is. But perhaps it would be a stereotype to say that the students don't realize the threat of tuition that the right-wing parties could push forward. On the other there is a mass of voters who don't follow any party programmes when deciding about their votes. Even my younger colleagues tell me how good it was when the right-wing coalition was in power over a decade ago (when, shortly put, Slovakia became a neoliberal experiment)... The longer the SMER is in the government, the more people tend to forget the neoliberal economic bullshit (SMER managed to create their own bullshit of course, but to some this means that opposition would be better, if able to create a government).

As for the Hungarian protests, it surprises me that they are not about economic demands, but to be honest, I don't really follow what is going on over there.

EDIT: Corrected number of kids that absented.

Bambuľka kvantová

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Bambuľka kvantová on February 20, 2016

Pretty bad to hear that the strike has been abused to encouraging students to go to vote. As MT said, asking people who are in conflict with the government to get out and vote can only lead to chasing votes for the opposition. Lots of people on fb had been accusing ISU/IVU of their links to the opposition anyway, so this will just make things worse. I don't see the reason why IVU could not issue a ban on any references to the upcoming elections during any events organized by IVU, regardless of whether it's a member or a guest speaker?! Saving the non-party political character of the strike is essential for its chances to grow, especially in the regions, and it should be priority number ONE, even if liberal plurality should be sacrificed.

More stuff on Hungarian teachers (can any Hungarian libcommers chip in please?):

http://budapestbeacon.com/news-in-brief/hungarian-teachers-continue-with-plans-to-strike/32224

http://hungarianspectrum.org/2016/01/27/social-media-and-political-change-the-case-of-the-hungarian-teachers-revolt/

How I wish this could hit a proper blow to the bloody reactionary Visegrad Block!

majo

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by majo on February 20, 2016

Many thanks to people from Slovakia for your direct reports! Too bad for me, that I am currently not able to visit Slovakia as well.
It is really good to hear that the working situation (working class issues, as Jura has put it) is keeping to be the core of discussions and some networks are emerging.
I have heard in several media a notion that "the strike (of elementary and high school) teachers was a great success already, because now we talk about education." It is my impressions, that this could be a slippery part, which could help to shift the meaning of strike closer to burgeois values. Also I think it is important to judge the success of strike according to its achieved targets. So if the teachers don't win in the end (do not achieve better working conditions), it might not be only a positive experience for them as a group struggling of working class. But as it was also well pointed out by the member of IVU (hear the radio interview) that the government is also starting to send some ambiguous (nevertheless crypted and _very_ blurry) signals.
Also, regarding the mentioned connections with 1989 and 1968. I find this somehow interesting. I was always astonished of frequent stupid mixing up of the term "strike" with, demonstration, picket and other symbolical actions and was linking this to the tradition of 1989 which included a general strike, but is remembered for the spectacle of rallies in the first place. But there is now this perception that strike is a political action. An elementary school teacher in her mid 40s I have talked to compared this strike with 1989 and the teachers' strike from 2012 (organized by unions, bottom-up and on subjective level consisting of simply "staying at home for three days and then going back to work"). She was enthusiastic about the current "real" strike -- because they've organized among themselves on the workplace, were going to discussions and demonstrations, drove to other towns, had internal meetings and discussed tactics etc.
As a bottom line: "Of course" ironically, she is also now enthusiastic for going to vote against Smer and SNS (nationalists) for right-wing in the new elections. :-/
Also, the connection with the anti-tuition struggle is very interesting and would be worth an analysis. I was also involved back-then but I have to admit, that my memories are so blurry already... For what I recall tactics of students involved essentially symbolical actions. To what degree did they contribute to the success of the struggle and to what degree collapsed the right-wing offensive because of other factors? Could anything be drawn from this today? ...

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 20, 2016

Anti-tuition activities were not a strike. A somewhat informal committee was created but the strike never materialized and there was basically no mobilization of students at particular faculties. I would have to check but if I remember well, the tuition idea was dropped down because the government was not able to make it happen before the end of its term and then those parties were not in the coalition anymore. So, to me it was not a real win but rather a coincidence (although it was presented as a victory of the students initiative by some back then).

As for the elections now. One can hardly expect consistency in such a movement (and seeing what is going on, I might even say in any movement). We wish things were happening this or that way, but it is a living thing. You can do something here or there, but you can't expect people will not vote. (Although I think it really could and should be discussed what people say regarding the elections.)

I think that the response of some teachers is caused by what SMER did during the strike. Many teachers decided to join the strike after what the prime minister, minister or some capitalists said in the media (bullshit that really made people angry because it was a direct attack at their dignity). At the same time - in my opinion - it created a sort of "revenge" attitude. Something like the fenomenon of "protest voting"...

As for judging the strike based on fulfillment of the demands. Well, I used to take this position some time ago as well, but I am sceptical if this is the way to go. Such perspective becomes fruitless when you try to analyse things. OK, they have not reached the demands yet. So, are we to say that they lost? How does this dichotomy help us to see many parts of the mosaic that this movement consists of in terms of organizing and actions. I gues you could say "they lost, but...". Well, then it should be clear which part of the sentence you put the emphasis on;)

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 21, 2016

Here is a selective list of some of the actions that will take place next week. I hope that libcomers in regions will write reports;) There are actions planned already for the week after next week. A lot of this actions are prepared by teachers at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava whose active involvement is one of the factors of continuation of the strike this week.

Monday
Why a strike? – debate at one of the faculties in Bratislava where teachers have joined the strike only recently.
Why it matters to us? – open debate at a university in Banská Bystrica. There will be also a debate with teachers, parents and pupils in the evening about the future of education system.
Example of non-traditional teaching – two hour presentation in Košice.
Ritualization of politics using the photos from the fascist Slovak republic – evening event in Bratislava.

Tuesday
Workshop on making banners and debate on art in practice and about the art of not being silent (Košice).
Presentation called „Artist – Rebel – Citizen“ with examples of civic resistance and rebellion in arts and film (Bratislava).

Wednesday
There will be marches to „sleeping faculties“ in Košice and Bratislava. They will use drums to make a lot of noise. The actions should be supported by teachers from different schools and universities, students and parents. In Košice it will be followed by a demonstration.
Reading marathon (in Bratislava) – each participant will have 5 minutes to read from his or her favourite book. At the same time there will be a meeting on creating slogans.

Thursday
Workshop on creating didactical tools for schools that joined the strike (Košice).

Friday
Debate on activism in art (Bratislava).

majo

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by majo on February 21, 2016

MT

As for judging the strike based on fulfillment of the demands. Well, I used to take this position some time ago as well, but I am sceptical if this is the way to go. Such perspective becomes fruitless when you try to analyse things. OK, they have not reached the demands yet. So, are we to say that they lost? How does this dichotomy help us to see many parts of the mosaic that this movement consists of in terms of organizing and actions. I gues you could say "they lost, but...". Well, then it should be clear which part of the sentence you put the emphasis on;)

I agree on this basically. What I meant to write was that I was regarding the collective experience and inspiration for other sectors as an outcome of current struggle. Making a point on the educational system and opening public debate is a good result, but I guess that it is also an important lesson to experience that if you stand-up for your demands as workers, you can actually enforce them.
But it is an abstract contemplating and commenting for me at the moment. :/ I don't have that precise picture of the atmosphere on the ground.

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 22, 2016

I managed to go to "Why a strike" debate at Faculty of Informatics and Information Technologies (FIIT) today. Actually, it was about Why THE Strike:) It was in a relatively new building of the faculty, a completely different planet to what most of the students in Bratislava experience during their studies. The debate was scheduled pretty smart because it was chosen after a lecture where it was sure that a lot of students would go to. The room has a capacity of 400 seats and almost noone left after the lecture. My guess is 300 students stayed for the ISU/IVU debate.

It is hard to compare it with the debate at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics last week but both were good. Here the students were perhaps more active and gave more provocative questions. One of the teachers at FIIT joked that despite they are in the field of information technologies, they were pretty slow to join the strike:) Several specifics of FIIT graduates and IT workers in general were mentioned. For example that they don't have to worry about their jobs, which perhaps makes them more letargic and unresponsive to problems of other people. But the FIIT teachers are happy to join the strike after all because they feel that it is something that is almost their duty.

The students asked about common misconceptions like long vacation and free time that the teachers enjoy, so it was explained how hard the job really is and that it cannot be compared jobs where you finish after 8 hours and that's it.

Another question was about the fact that only 17% of teachers in regional education joined the strike, so how can they call on students to take active role and help the strike when even teachers didn't care. A response by IVU teacher was basically about not following those who don't do anything but what you feel should be done (this "do the right thing" response was seconded by a representative of a students initiative who was one of the guests). Unfortunately, the teacher mentioned also voting, which he seems to consider as part of being active in society. I am curious about such statements as we are closer to the elections date (5th March).

Another response to "only" 17% was intimidation and situation of women in this feminized sector, especially those who have kids and no partner. I wish they mentioned also the role of the OZPŠaV union.

After the debate a dean came to the meeting and explained that she supports the strike (she was not so openly supportive last week (although not openly against either)).

Since yesterday the list of activities for this week grew and one even has to choose between where to go as times collide:) There is also a new activity that in whole Slovakia every day between 12.05 and 12.15 all the lectures would stop and people gather in some open spaces and can take a picture of their gathering and share. A symbolic thing, of course, but these things can play a motivating and mobilizing role.

There is also one great thing which comes with organizing across faculties. Not only the teachers meet and talk to their colleagues from the same and/or other faculties for the first time, but they can go further and thanks to this can talk about own problems and organize to fight for changes. For example there are faculties with bad working conditions (shitty contracts and/or totalitarian bosses). I think these "side effects" will be part of the crucial factors in evaluating the strike even if the 3 demands of ISU are not fulfilled. Even more if they really manage to achieve improvements at particular faculties.

Bambuľka kvantová

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Bambuľka kvantová on February 24, 2016

Today students and teachers in the major eastern town Kosice marched in support of nurses who had left their jobs in their dispute with hospital management a couple of weeks ago. These nurses now demand a collective reinstatement to their previous posts. About 200 people joined the event today (so the media said) and messages of solidarity were exchanged.
Also, students organizing strike dance parties in several venues these days, a couple of live gigs and a lively well attended drumming march in the capital city today.

MT

8 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 24, 2016

One of the alternative lectures yesterday was at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava and was about "rebellions". It provided a short info on some historically known films about rebellions as well as rebellions in art. Some examples from Slovakia were mentioned as well. There was also a screening of parts from Media Cool and Zabriskie Point with historical background and making of the films. I was quite impressed by Media Cool and the scene from the real demo. Pretty powerful even today. Anyway, only some 15-20 people came, which is a pity, but I don't regret going. I wish someone from Košice could write about alternative lectures there, because they have interesting schedule, too.

Today there was the drumming march, which started at the Faculty of Pedagogics in Bratislava. I thought there would be no more than 50 people who would have a walk around the city center on the sidewalk and just beat the drums. Groups of students and teachers from different faculties were coming in front of the building of the Faculty of Pedagogics (which has a nice strike decorum btw) with their own banners and noise and in the end a mass of (my guess) 500 students and teachers was created in the process of what followed. A band formed from over a dozen students and teachers prepared a drum song and it created a wonderful atmosphere which stayed strong during the whole protest. So in the end, it was a real protest march that stopped the transport in the city center for a while. I thought that there would be stops at the faculties it passed by, but it seems the original plan changedt. Anyway, I think this type of action should have been organized long before today, because it really felt great.

In the evening, there was a concert of Rozpor (a well known DIY political punk band) which was very untraditional, as it took place in a hall of Faculty of Arts where usually classical music is performed. A bit surreal and an experience that all the people there will surely remember (the hall looks like a place for royal weddings:)). Now I think that it is a pity that people don't put photos here. Time to change that:)

So, today was really full of positive energy.

The number of teachers in strike rose to 553 from 20 universities. I've seen numbers from 2013 and there should be almost 10 000 university teachers in Slovakia.

MT

8 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on February 27, 2016

I translated an interview with one of the IVU teachers taken from the online version of newspapers SMEfrom 24th February 2016. One does not have to agree with what is said, but in my opinion this interview represents well some aspects and motives of university teachers strike (as much as a short interview can, of course).

Government cannot treat teachers as rags, says a pedagogue

Literary scientist and historian Jozef Tancer has been working at the Comenius University for eighteen years. He sees a great contribution of the strike in uniting academia and solidarity that is untypical of Slovakia.

Jozef Tancer teaches German literature at the Department of German, Dutch and Scandinavian Studies at Comenius University. He is a chairman of the employee part of the academic senate of the Faculty of Arts and actively takes part in the strike of university pedagogues.

One can see that teacher demonstrations are different to other demonstrations. Why is it so?

“We are strike amateurs. But teachers are professionals, also thanks to the job they do, in the ability to communicate and are being used to stand in from of a group and organize it. They can use a lot of the skills that are related to their profession. For example, fine arts disciplines have practical experience with big productions. We learn as we go and make a lot of mistakes. There are actions with important content that we are not able to communicate to the outside world.”

What motivated you to take an active part in the strike?

“I have been following the activities of the Initiative of teachers and seen that new topics emerged which we have not taken into account first. A big topic is the motive of solidarity. Even if it sounds unbelievable, the university teachers reacted because of their moral outrage. Because of how the government treats the teachers and how it communicates with them.”

Do you think that you can influence the approach of the government?

“We are no pragmatists who know how to influence or pursue things. Maybe there is this thing that we have a naive feeling that a teacher should have some respect and gravity in society. They cannot be treated as rags. The way the communication was handled with striking teachers offended our honour and was the emotional reason for many to join the strike. We lack solidarity among groups of people in Slovakia. There is a total lack of solidarity of the majority with any minority, like for example doctors and nurses. National, sexual minorities, refugees… That’s why the civic sector is paralyzed; we forgot what it means that a person is a social being.”

The strike opened a topic of social status of universities

“We did not formulate our won demands purposely. Those of the Initiative of Slovak Teachers could markedly improve even the university education in a relatively short time. Universities would get more quality graduates from high schools. The second reason was that we didn’t want to break up our strength but unite people. University teachers are practically marginalized groups, too. We belong to the education sector and despite our different position, we are an enclave that lives in its own ivory tower, speaks an incomprehensible scientific language, organized conferences, but we forgot to communicate with the outside world. That’s why not only society has distorted perception about us, as we have learnt in the last weeks, but also us ourselves. “

What influence did it have on you?

“Although I am teaching my eighteenth year at the Comenius University, during the last five days I have been for the first time at the Faculty of Natural Sciences, I have met my colleagues and their students. I have been for the first time at the Faculty of Informatics and Information Technologies of the Slovak Technical University; for the first time I had the chance to be directly in contact with people with who we compete for the budget and with who we indirectly talk about criteria of quality via media and commissions, but I have never met them before. I feel like natural sciences have a very specific view on arts and vice versa, but we all are a bit wrong. As part of the strike, the interfaculty cooperation has started. A professor of genetics from the Faculty of Natural Sciences came to the Faculty of Arts and had a lecture on Comenius, which is a miracle in Slovakia. We have a lot in common.”

Will the events of last few weeks move the Slovak academia forward?

“When people meet each other, they automatically start to look for what unites them. This moment will move forward Comenius University in the least. We have thirteen faculties and is it hard to find things in common. Now, informal relationships are being formed. I don’t have a problem anymore to pick up a phone and call mathematicians and agree on common activities. Informal relationships have been formed between universities as well. At the beginning there were people from ten faculties from various universities. Gradually the strike committee grew and we have contact people all over Slovakia now. We, although in Bratislava we are not very good in this, try to travel and meet. Not only across disciplines but regions as well.”

Do you think the cooperation will last?

“We have no boss and we can function only when we respect each other. We have no power, therefore we have nothing to fight about between each other; there is no conflict of competencies. It fascinates me, because for some bodies or institutions this could be a communication problem. The Initiative of Slovak Teachers and the Initiative of University Teachers are built from below.”

Are more than five hundred university teachers a sufficient number?

“No, it’s too little and I am disappointed. But I don’t think this is about numbers. It is about the attitude of individuals. Five hundred active university teachers who are on strike but at the same time teach, may have wider impact than 15 thousand striking teachers that do not teach. Within a week I could talk to one hundred students about what is going on and explain the context of the education. I do my job, I speak about what is going on and at the same time I do not take any wage.”

Despite that, it is hard to find students at demonstrations who would be able to formulate their own opinion and explain why they protest.

“It is not enough to explain it once. Many faculties are preparing for activities after the elections that will not have a strike character but will continue in the edification. I don’t want to be hard on students, but they are like children that need several years to learn to speak up. They need to train and that requires patience. Students are not different to our society – most of them are passive. You can’t start to express your opinion from one day to another and we can’t build civic society in a year. Maybe we have wrong expectations. Why the students should know something the grown-ups don’t know? Students were there when big social changes took place and maybe we heroified them.”

Is it possible to fix it?

“It is important to create a common memory of several generations that work at universities. The generation around their sixties experienced during their studies the year 1968 and in their active years the year 1989. The second generation of people, who are now in their forties, experienced the year 1989 during their grammar school and university studies, and now are assistants and docents. The students are the generation of after-1989. The strike is an opportunity for us to bring the historical experience of reforming the society over to three generations. I believe that this is emotionally most effective when done between the oldest generation and the students. There is a magical bond of mutual generosity and enthusiasm between grandparents and grandchildren. On the other hand, there are strong conflicts between the generation of parents and their children. It is important that many older university teachers who joined the strike speak with their students about their experiences with the year 1989, when much more was in stake than now. 25 years have passed, which is one generation, and to form a new vision of society we need a historical memory.”

vasil2

8 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by vasil2 on February 29, 2016

Some points on demonstration in Košice 24th feb. 2016
- students and teachers (both university and elementary schools) organised about 100 people march in Košice with drums and loud party music
- elementary school teachers joined them on their way
- the march joined the demonstration of nurses in front of ex-minister`s of health house in Košice
- they moved to smaller square in Košice where after 20 minutes nurses joined the demonstration. This was very strong solidarity moment for all the crowd.
- there were some parents with children in the crowd supporting demonstration
- all in all about 350 people joined the demonstration

- afterparty in nearby punk bar (teachers and students together - strong unity feeling, maybe important for the future)

akai

8 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by akai on March 1, 2016

Great stuff.

MT

8 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on March 1, 2016

There was a lot of debates at universities during last week and also this week. Banská Bystrica was very active in the aspect.

With elections around the corner (Saturday) some uni teachers speak about how important it is to vote. I wouldn't say that it is them using the strike for this propaganda, rather it is something that meany of them would do despite the strike. I remember how it annoyed me in the past when some of my uni teachers mentioned the mantra of voting before elections.

I think that the dynamics of the ISU and IVU strike are very different (I would say because of how different both initiatives were created with IVU having no continuity, not mentioning the fact that ISU's continuity is based on the objective necessity to form something outside the union structures in 2012).

There are some ideas that the next months should be about preparations for a more massive strike in autumn probably together with the OZPŠaV, but not dependent on them.

As for current activities today there was a "Funeral of the Education" march through the city center with a big coffin and a funeral band. It represented a lost fight for the education and a hope that something new will be created. Some 500 people took part, which was more than I expected.

Interesting things are going on in the East, so I hope vasil will report.

Bambuľka kvantová

8 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Bambuľka kvantová on March 1, 2016

What is the future strategy, for how long can the university teachers carry on like this?
What about that mysterious train full of strikers expedited from Bratislava to Kosice? Vasil, come on...!
I liked the idea of pictures of students expressing gratitude to their high school teachers, a good way how to help deepen the links between universities and other schools! And also the idea that this week university lecturers are going to teach primary and high school kids is great, for the same reason! :-) Perhaps small and not radical gestures (for libcom standards), but they probably reflect TODAY's needs of the movement in Slovakia quite well... (correct me if I am wrong).

MT

8 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on March 2, 2016

For the readers who don't follow Slovak media, here are photos from the Funeral:
https://dennikn.sk/387236/ucitelia-prisli-ciernom-pochovavali-skolstvo-fotogaleria/

MT

8 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on March 2, 2016

I just would like to add to what Bambuľka said that the uni teachers are giving lectures directly at high schools, not unis (oppossed to one of the Fridays), which is I think a very good idea (however, at some schools headmasters allowed it only if the subject was related to the teaching plan of the high school teachers).

Btw., the number of uni workers on strike is currently 573 from 20 universities. Vast majority of them are teachers, but you could find also some exceptions (very small though) of non-pedagogic staff taking part.

MT

8 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on March 7, 2016

The strike shifted to strike emergency from today. Altogether the strike lasted 6 weeks. There are no direct effect in terms of fullfilment of the demands.

There are plans to continue the networking and prepare for another strike.

A lot will depend on how the new government will look like, which is not clear yet, but if there is any new government at all, it will be a right-wing one. I would say that a possible strike in this situation will be much harder thing to organize unless the OZPŠaV union steps in. So, the future doesn't look nice at all and teachers will have to do a lot of work to organize the next strike and to succeed.

jura

8 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on March 8, 2016

I think if there's a right-wing government, there's a good chance that unions (all of them) will be more active (as always). But that's not necessarily a good thing. An important outcome of all of this was a lot of self-organization, which the teacher's union will try to downplay or drown if it does step in. An important advantage for the ISU could be that they were able to provoke solidarity (if small-scale) from the universities, which the official union never even tried AFAIK. Another good thing is that the demands haven't changed and the ISU is determined (at least in its declarations) to continue the fight regardless of the government. The sheer perseverance could be an important psychological factor.

I'm more optimistic about the near future. If there's a right-wing government, I think there will generally be more public support for struggles around living standards (everywhere). Sure, some of the teachers (perhaps especially in Bratislava) who supported the strike may lose interest, but on the other hand the political shift could draw in teachers who hesitated to strike for political reasons.

Of course, if the new government is smart about it and starts making some minor but real concessions, the movement may just dissipate.

Bambuľka kvantová

8 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Bambuľka kvantová on March 10, 2016

I am not sure about Bratislava but the regions may get tougher. The statutory primary schools are being established and run under the local governments, the statutory secondary schools under the regional administration. If the heavy-handed far-right People's Party succeeds in the regional elections next year, which is likely, then who would dare to go on strike without the trade union protection then? The local elections in 2018 could mean the same additional risk for teachers in nurseries and primary schools.
The participation on strike in regional schools was very low anyway and I am hoping ISU-IVU are going to try to prevent this same happens again.

MT

8 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on July 2, 2016

Just a short update. ISU and IVU have been active even after the strike. They organized several meetings and actions since March 2016 and used the first day of Slovak presidency of the Council of the EU to stress out their demands (video from the protest with an option of English subtitles: https://youtu.be/a91SlChaZU8).

They plan further actions in August and possibly a strike again in September.

Chilli Sauce

8 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on July 2, 2016

Thanks for the update MT. Solidarity!

vasil2

5 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by vasil2 on October 10, 2018

Update:
ISU is really far away from forming any active net of teachers. Mostly it is activity of an individuale giving TV interviews and commenting vast variety of social topics. They are participating on antigovernment oposition protests. There is nearly nothing left from the big potencial of building active teachers movement.