Czech teachers threaten strike after pay talks fail

Robert Plaga, František Dobšík, photo: ČTK/Ondřej Deml

Teachers unions in the Czech Republic have declared a state of strike alert. The move follows a breakdown in salary talks with the minister of education, who says Czech teachers are finally getting the pay they deserve and accuses the unions of taking a “destructive” position.

Robert Plaga,  František Dobšík,  photo: ČTK/Ondřej Deml
Wearing a t-shirt reading #Anendtocheapteachers, union leader František Dobšík emerged from negotiations with the minister of education with a clear message: Either the government meets educators’ pay demands or they will take strike action.

“It’s more or less a political signal that we are not heading for agreement. We want to find a solution. It’s a matter for the government. We shall see whether the negotiations reach a successful conclusion.”

Both sides agree that educators should get more in 2020. The form of increase is the issue.

Prior to Tuesday’s meeting unions replaced their original demand for a 15-percent rise with a call for a 10-percent increase – on condition that this pertain to their basic pay alone.

The Ministry of Education rejects this plan. It wants to give teachers a certain amount in their basic salaries and more in bonuses.

Minister Robert Plaga says this move would be part of a broader, long-term increase in teachers’ pay.

“I’m surprised by this strike alert announcement. I find this position destructive in a situation in which within four years we have given teachers 40 percent more – and nobody disagrees that they were under-appreciated in the last 20 years –, and when the government has committed on paper to increasing their pay not just next year but in 2021.”

By coincidence, a new study by the Prague-based Institute for Democracy and Economic Analysis has found that despite recent rises teachers’ pay is low by comparison with other professions in the Czech Republic – and with the remuneration enjoyed by their peers in other developed countries.

The report also states that salaries are highly equalised, with relatively small gaps between what young and more experienced Czech teachers earn.

Milena Jabůrková,  photo: ČTK/Ondřej Deml
Employers are among those calling for higher pay for teachers. They would like to see better people drawn into and retained in the profession, as this would help produce more highly educated workers.

Milena Jabůrková is deputy president of the Czech Confederation of Industry:

“We believe it is extremely important that the profession be attractive to teachers. We don’t want to argue now about which money should go where. But we are calling for the teaching sector to be made more attractive.”

The average monthly teacher’s salary in the first quarter of this year was around CZK 36,200.

The unions have not stated when they might stage a classroom walkout.

They say such a move will depend on how the pay issue develops when next year’s budget is further debated at the level of the government and the Chamber of Deputies.