Teachers' strike a certainty for September 1st

A nation-wide civil servants' strike - including tax-revenue officers and other state employees - especially teachers - has become an almost one-hundred percent certainty for September 1st. The reason for the strike: to send a message to the government, currently hammering out complex public finance reforms, that more money is needed for end-of-the-year bonuses for state employees. They expect an additional six billion crowns to somehow be found in an already tight state budget.

On Thursday school union representatives reached a compromise agreement to strike for one day as opposed to more. However, forceful personalities within the union executive committee pushed for an additional statement stressing that unless the requested funds were granted, the Czech Republic would see a more extensive strike in October, along with possible protests. On one interesting note: as momentum for the strike grew Education Minister Petra Buzkova tried to take some of the edge off by asking the school unions to make an exception for first graders going to school for the very first time. She warned that the strike would spoil a key life experience for the first-time students.

"How do you explain to six-year-old children, who were looking forward to their first day of school, that class was cancelled? For them it could be a real disappointment."

Petra Buzkova
But, on Thursday, Mrs Buzkova's request was promptly swept off the table. Chairman for the school unions Frantisek Dobsik had warned all along he was sceptical: such a gesture, he says, would have only softened the impact of the strike.

For the moment then, it appears that many first graders, along with many other students, will have an extra day of holidays to enjoy before they head for the classrooms. Many, but not all. As it turns out only about half the country's schools will ultimately support the strike. 27 out of 60 regional union representatives are not in support, many convinced that one day does not go far enough in proving their intentions are serious. They say only a several-day lay-off would get their message across, a shockwave to a government struggling to rein in a widening public finance deficit.

Under the circumstances it will be difficult - if not impossible - to satisfy all state employees, including teachers, this September. Unhappy with proposed cuts and a freeze in wages - they are more than likely to remain dissatisfied, unless the government somehow begins making concessions it has insisted till now it could not.