Teachers get a bigger slice of the pie

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Less than three months into its term in office, the Czech government has had to announce a series of unpopular measures. Due to the enormous cost of the recent floods it has had to go back on its promise to increase civil servants' wages by an average 13 %. Doctors, nurses, policemen, and firefighters are expected to get a 7 % wage increase at the most. Teachers can look forward to a pay rise that is two percent higher than that. Daniela Lazarova has the story:

While doctors' trade unions are preparing to battle for a bigger slice of the pie, teachers are looking to their minister Petra Buzkova with new respect. Although the education sphere has been severely underpaid for years, and a 9-percent wage increase is not going to do wonders, the very fact that for the first time ever teachers have been given priority over other professions has evoked gratification. Jaromir Ressler is head of the Teachers' trade unions:

"I perceive this as a very strong and clear signal that the present government considers the education sphere a priority. And I trust that the government will remain committed to resolving our problems in the long term. The former Social Democrat government outlined a long-term project under which funds for the education sphere should reach 6 percent of the GDP within the next four years. If this can be achieved our major problems will all be taken care of."

The news that the education minister has managed to get a better deal for her sector has only encouraged others - for instance doctors - to increase the pressure and issue warnings about an inevitable brain drain if their work and pay conditions do not improve. Jaromir Ressler maintains that a bigger slice of the pie for Czech teachers is not unfair since the education sector is allegedly in the most critical situation of all.

"The natural process of replacing one generation of teachers by another has stopped. Pedagogical graduates are not seeking jobs in the education sector because of extremely low wages. The staff at schools is aging, school directors are having to employ under-qualified or even non-qualified applicants. Ten thousand people who presently teach at Czech schools do not have the respective training for the job, they are not university graduates. Unless corrective action is taken now in a few years time our children will not get the kind of education we want for them - certainly not at public schools."

The proposed pay rises still have to be approved by both houses of Parliament within next year's state budget.