Half the schools in the Czech Republic will take part in Wednesday’s strike, but not all will close

Over 6,000 Czech schools, more than 50 percent, say they will join teachers' strike on Wednesday

Prague, Nov 4 (CTK) – Over 6,000 Czech schools, more than 50 percent, say they will join teachers’ strike on Wednesday, when they need not close completely but may only restrict lessons or offer alternative lessons, teachers’ union deputy chairwoman Marketa Seidlova told a press conference today.

She said the union will know the exact number of schools on strike on Wednesday morning.

According to the Education Ministry’s statistical figures, the Czech self-rule regions and municipalities operated a total of 9,748 kindergartens, elementary and secondary schools and colleges, with the total number of teachers being 144,727.

Seidlova said the striking schools will be marked by a logo saying either that the school staff are on strike or that they support the strike.

Some schools have already heralded their plan not to close on Wednesday but prepare a special programme for 1st-5th graders.

The unions say the government failed to keep its promise to raise teachers’ wages by 15 percent as of January. They are dissatisfied with the government’s final promise to raise the base pay by 8 percent and earmark an equivalent of another 2 percent for bonuses to be distributed to the best teachers. The unions want a 10-percent increase in the base pay, worth a total 11 billion crowns, instead.

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Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) today said the strike of teachers is pointless, the cabinet will neither react to it nor will it change anything about the pay increase plan on which he and Education Minister Robert Plaga (ANO) agreed last week.

Babis said the government has actually added 10 percent to teachers’ income as of 2020, only dividing the sum into 8 and 2 percent. In addition, further billions of crowns will be used to help extend the capacity of kindergartens. So I do not understand it,” Babis said, referring to the upcoming strike.

“The strike is quite pointless because we will not react to it any more…I don’t understand why the unions are doing this, who is backing them,” Babis said.

A 10-percent increase in base pay was also demanded by the junior government Social Democrats (CSSD). Babis, nevertheless, ruled out that his ANO, which controls the education sector, may meet the CSSD’s demand.

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“The CSSD always demands something without saying where to find the money to finance the plan,” Babis said.

The unions seek teachers’ pay increase to 130 percent of the country’s average wage. In the first quarter of 2019, the average gross monthly wage was 32,466 crowns, compared with teachers’ average wage of 36,224 crowns, i.e. about 112 percent of the average wage in the country.

The teachers’ union and Plaga differ on the calculation of the government-planned pay increase’s effect, accusing one another of using incorrect figures in their calculations.

The strike is not unanimously backed by school headmasters or regional and municipal authorities, many of which operate local schools. For example, the Association of Elementary Schools’ Headmasters said last weekend that its members would not try to prevent teachers from striking but would not join the strike themselves.

The Education Ministry today said schools should inform parents on Tuesday at the latest on whether and how they will join the Wednesday strike.

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In some schools, only a part of teachers may join the strike, and it is up to the headmasters to decide whether to close their schools or not. If a school remains open, schoolchildren’s safety must be ensured, the ministry said.

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