2019.10.31 12:00

Teachers stage protest outside Lithuanian Education Ministry as minister meets unions for talks

Ignas Jačauskas, BNS 2019.10.31 12:00

A group of teachers have staged a protest outside the Lithuanian Ministry of Education, where Minister Algirdas Monkevičius is hosting a meeting on Thursday with five trade unions over a collective agreement.

Dozens of pumpkins are lit up in front of the ministry building during the symbolic protest action organized by the Lithuanian Education and Science Trade Union (LŠMPS), which has earlier announced plans to go on strike this year.

The glow of pumpkin lanterns “will help politicians wandering in the dark labyrinths of budget adoption to make decisions favourable to the education community,” the trade union, led by Egidijus Milešinas, said in a statement.

According to the LŠMPS, the Education Ministry pledged to allocate an additional 118 million euros for teachers' salaries next year under the collective agreement signed earlier this year, but the government's 2020 budget bills earmarks only 55.5 million euros in extra funding.

Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis says the commitments were not included into the budget bill because the Education Ministry had not been authorized by the government to sign the agreement.

The Lithuanian Education Employees Trade Union, led by Andrius Navickas, is also considering going on strike, unless there is a new bilateral collective agreement with the ministry. The trade union led a strike in late 2018 which led to the resignation of the previous education minister.

Monkevičius, who is meeting with LŠMPS and four other education sector trade unions on Thursday, has named a pay rise for teachers as his priority.

“I am inviting the education and science community to sit down and solve the situation,” he said.

Minister: I'll do all I can to avoid strike

Lithuanian Education Minister Monkevičius says he's doing everything possible to meet teachers' demands and avoid a strike.

“We will definitely use all arguments during discussions in the parliament and think about sources to have that earlier agreed amount. And, well, I will do everything for us to have that result,” the minister said.

He is convinced that additional funds could be taken from internal reserves by optimizing the school network.

The minister met with representatives of several teachers' trade union on Thursday.

“We were assured by the minister that he would fight like a lion for those agreements, i.e. 117 million euros, to appear in the next year's budget. If what was agreed earlier does not appear, then a strike will be held. We are also working in cooperation with the trade union of heads of education establishments, and they are also ready to strike,” Egidijus Milešinas, head of the Lithuanian Education and Science Trade Union, said.