It has been more than two weeks since pupils in Kosovo have not sat at their school desks, due to a teachers’ strike. Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s meeting with education unions on Tuesday ended without agreement.
After the meeting, the head of the teachers’ union, Rrahman Jasharaj, told a press conference that the strike will continue.
The parties failed to agree on whether teachers’ wages should rise by 50 euros, or 100 euros, as the unions are demanding.
“We insisted that the mentioned amount [50 euros], which has not been accepted by any trade unionists in Kosovo, be changed. We were ready to make a small compromise for the sake of the situation but the government stuck by the amount proclaimed with the package,” said Jasharaj.
Jasharaj added that, “the good news is that the dialogue will continue”. According to him, the government refused to offer more than 50 euros but was at least ready to discuss 100 euros.
Kurti said at a different press conference on Tuesday that the unionists were the first ones to receive the news that the public hearing for the Law on Salaries will begin this week.
“We were told at the meeting that they will consult with the rest of their [union] members. As soon as the trade unionists came out [of the meeting], they told the media that the strike will continue. When did they ask the rest of their members?” Kurti asked.
According to him, the government gave the union an additional offer that, together with the Union of the Private Sector Workers, they will reform the pension system, in order to differentiate the different categories, removing the infamous threshold of 15 years of work experience.
“They [unionists] said that they would discuss these offers with their membership. I don’t know what type of membership it is that is reduced to maybe a phone call,” Kurti added.
The union is insisting that they will continue with strikes until their demand for an additional 100 euros per month is met, until the Law on Salaries comes into force.
This is opposed by the government, which wants schools reopened now, promising that the new Law on Salaries, that foresees an increase in salaries for teachers, will be approved soon.
While the confrontation between unionists and the authorities continues, the strike in education has left almost 320,000 pupils out of class. This is the third week in September that has seen pupils kept at home.
The 2022/23 school year for primary and secondary schools was scheduled to begin on September 1. The public-sector strike started on August 25.
Meanwhile, the Council of Students of Kosovo and the Coalition of NGOs for the Protection of Children have called on all parties in the process to have the best interest of the child as the main consideration and find a common solution, since the interruption of education harms children the most.