Under the slogan “Croatia has to do better”, tens of thousands of Croatian citizens, teachers and members of the primary, secondary and tertiary education unions held a protest rally on Monday on Zagreb’s main square, demanding higher wages for the sector.
Teachers and other education workers across the country went on strike in October and organised protests in front of the government building after the government rejected union demands for a 6-per-cent rise in their pay index.
Meanwhile, teachers have gained mass support from parents of pupils as well as from other citizens. A supporting Facebook group now counts more than 70,000 members.
Around 50 labour unions supported the latest protest, among them the Croatian Journalists Union. Its president, Maja Sever, told BIRN that the protest involved “not just teachers, not just parents, but all citizens who want to say yes to good schools and to good society”.
“Today we can say that Croatia stands behind us,” the leader of the secondary school teachers’ union, Branimir Mihalinec, said at the protest, rejecting accusations that political interests were behind them.
The unions insist on pushing the issue of wages in education, demanding increases in pay for teachers so that they do not lag behind other public sector workers.
Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and his government have so far offered an increase in base pay to education sector employees, as well as other public and state officials.
Commenting on the strike and the protest on Monday, he said he expected an end to the strike in schools this week, and urged unions and teachers to get children back in their classrooms.
Union leaders expect the government to call them to negotiate and have announced if a deal with the government is reached, the strike should be over by the end of the week.