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.