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Thousands of Czech schools on strike over wages

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A woman walks past a placard announcing the teachers’ strike which is seen on a glass door of the Nad Aleji High school on November 6, 2019 in Prague. – Thousands of schools across the Czech Republic joined a one-day strike for higher teacher salaries, a union official said. School unions had demanded a 15-percent salary hike for this year, but the government has offered to earmark only a 10-percent increase in its 2020 budget. (Photo by Michal CIZEK / AFP)

Thousands of schools across the Czech Republic joined a one-day strike Wednesday for higher teacher salaries, a union official said.

School unions had demanded a 15-percent salary hike for this year, but the government has offered to earmark only a 10-percent increase in its 2020 budget.

“A total of 1,221 schools are closed, 2,743 have reduced their hours and almost 3,000 are sending us e-mails in support as they could not take an active part in the strike,” Marketa Seidlova, deputy head of the Czech school employees union, told reporters.

That meant that more than half of the country’s schools were taking part in the protest, added Seidlova, who wore a T-shirt with the hashtag #nomorecheapteachers.

Education Minister Robert Plaga played down the numbers, saying they were far from “the illusion they were trying to create” as only 10-25 percent of schools had joined the strike depending on the region.

“After years or maybe decades when teachers were neglected, wages are now increasing. I admit they could grow faster though,” Plaga said.

“We have been raising wages markedly for the past two years, but we are still far from a situation when we could say we are investing in the future of our children.”

In its policy statement, the centre-left cabinet of billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babis vowed to raise teacher wages by 2021 to at least 150 percent of the 2017 level.

In the first quarter of 2019, teachers in the Czech Republic earned a little more than 36,200 koruna (1,420 euros, $1,575) a month on average, slightly higher than the EU member’s overall average wage of almost 32,500 koruna.


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