School Unions: We Are On the Brink of a Strike

The Školské odbory (School Unions) have activated strike committees and called for the establishment of more. According to them, the chapter on education in the draft state budget is a “deprived chapter,” and due to the missing billions, a strike is looming.

“The situation is critical. We have called for the activation of strike committees and the establishment of new ones. And from how we travel to conferences in the regions, it is evident that we are really on the verge of a strike,” said Markéta Seidlová, the deputy chairwoman of the unions.

According to František Dobšík, the head of the school unions, the chapter covering regional education, including preschools, primary schools, and secondary schools, has increased by only 1.3 billion crowns according to the current proposal. Indeed, teachers will not reach the promised goal of receiving 130 percent of the average salary next year.

At the same time, the salaries of non-teaching staff, from cooks and custodians to cleaners, economists, and IT administrators, are to be reduced by two percent. The wages of other pedagogical staff, including teaching assistants, educators, special educators, and school psychologists, are also at risk of a two percent reduction. According to Dobšík, this represents a loss of four to nine billion crowns.

“Principals will have to reduce teachers’ salaries.”

“School principals will be faced with a very unpleasant situation regarding how to handle it. We don’t want to let ourselves be divided into teachers and others. But unfortunately, this reduction will affect the lives of non-teaching staff. Principals will have to find solutions for them as well,” said Dobšík.

Currently, funding is not guaranteed for 17,000 of these positions. There are around 48,000 of them in schools.

“The head chef, who has one of the best salaries, earns around 36,000 gross. If these impacts occur, their salary will decrease by at least overtime rates and will reach 24,000 gross. If their salaries are not to be reduced, the principal will have to reach for teachers’ salaries,” explained Seidlová.

Debates are still underway on what the strike should look like, according to Seidlová. She rejected the notion that the unions would take children hostage. “It is the government that takes children hostage,” she stated. According to the unions, the cuts in education will affect the quality of teaching because, for example, tandem teaching, where two teachers teach together in one class, will no longer be possible. The option of dividing classes into smaller groups, such as for mathematics, will also be limited.

Dobšík said that the unions would try to inform parents about the impact the cuts would have on their children. “School cafeterias showcase the Czech system,” he remarked.

He still plans to negotiate the budget with the Minister of Education and will demand the four to nine billion mentioned.