On strike today

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Today, many teachers here in the Czech Republic are on strike. Teacher unions have been threatening with a strike for some time now because the government failed to keep its promise to raise teachers’ wages by 15 per cent as of January. But the unions’ patience was really over with the government’s final promise to raise the base pay by 8 per cent and provide an equivalent of another 2 per cent for bonuses to be distributed to the best teachers. The unions want a 10 per cent increase in the base pay.

Many people involved in the field of education, including the Prime Minister, think the strike is pointless. Some teachers also believe that the unions’ demand is actually counterproductive since it is less advantageous for the more efficient and competent teachers. In other words, it will not be in the school principles’ power to reward their best teachers. The minister of education complains that Czech teachers are finally getting the pay they deserve and he accuses the unions of taking a “destructive” position.

It may be true that our salaries keep increasing but a study by the Prague-based Institute for Democracy and Economic Analysis has found that despite recent rises teachers’ pay is low by comparison with other professions in the Czech Republic – and with the remuneration enjoyed by their peers in other developed countries.

Anyway, in the school where I work, less than 50 per cent of the staff have decided to give up today’s wage and stay at home. I am one of them. I’m aware of the fact that the strike may not achieve the unions’ original goals, but I believe that it’s important to speak up from time to time. Teachers should demonstrate that they pull together as a team.

Thinking about it, I am also immensely grateful for the opportunity for a peaceful protest like this. I recently learned about the working conditions of garment workers in some of the developing countries. Once these people joined a strike, they were beaten up by the government armed forces. This happened in the 21st century. So I think it is a real blessing to be living in a world where we can express our opinion freely without being punished.

Having said that, although we don’t get punished physically, we are frowned upon by some people, especially those outside of the field of education. Some of them believe that we are greedy. Isn’t it enough that we have two months of holidays in the summer? By the way, according to them, we keep asking for more but we

“can’t even teach their kids a simple phrase like I was in London. If my son hadn’t studied this on his own, he wouldn’t know how to say this”. (end of quote)

But you know what, no matter what everybody says, I am proud to be a teacher and I feel it’s my prerogative to be on strike today. Personally, I have gone a long way to get where I am now. Also, I believe that I’m good at what I do and I’m passionate about it. So as I see it, asking for more (whatever this ‘more’ means) is not a sign of greed; it is a sign of confidence. It shows that I am (=we are) deserving of it.

About Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages for almost 25 years and I still love my job. You can find out more about my passion here on my blog.
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6 Responses to On strike today

  1. Marc says:

    I hope that you and your colleagues get that pay rise!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this. Is anyone else in ELT writing about the teachers’ strike there?

    Like

  3. Raquel Lobo Moran says:

    Loved it!!! I wish there were more teachers who talked about this. It’s time we united and made this job what it should be: an essential role in creating a better world.
    Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good on you!

    I hope that more teachers like you decide to join the strike.

    In solidarity!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hana, good teachers, and I know you are one such person, provide any nation with an important asset – it’s future workforce. You are equipping your students with the skills necessary to make a difference for themselves and for their families. In writing my book about your country I admired the resilience of Czechs throughout history in surviving repressive rulers over the centuries. Sadly, older Czechs today who lived through the Communist years are often still not willing to speak out against authorities because they harbour memories of the price paid under a authoritarian regime for doing so. Hopefully, younger Czechs are evolving into speaking up for a just cause, such as pay equality. Your economy has made recent gains and as the cost of living begins to rise as well, wage justice should be an important issue. Sometimes, the only way to put it on the table for discussion is through ‘direct action’ when all other methods have failed.

    Liked by 1 person

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