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news 29 Jan 15

Teachers Strike in Macedonia Wins European Backing

European education union chief Martin Romer says strike over new evaluation system is justified, calling planned fines unacceptable.

Goran Rizaov
BIRN
Skopje

 

The European Trade Union Committee for Education, ETUCEE, said it supported a strike by teachers in Macedonia over a new system of evaluation of their work that includes fines – but urged all sides to continue talks.

Backed by ETUCEE’s President Martin Romer’s visit on January 27, the teachers union said it will continue its strike despite government pressure to call it off and the introduction of substitute teachers in some affected schools.

The independent teachers union in Macedonia, SONK, on Tuesday said it would continue its strike until the government abandoned its new system of evaluating teachers and scrapped the planned fines. About 90 per cent of teachers in Macedonia are members of SONK.

Under the latest change to the education law, a teacher may be fined by up €50 of their €300-400 euro a month in salary “if their evaluations of students are not similar to those of the external evaluators”, the ETUCEE stated.

The monthly penalty may also be imposed over several months and, if repeated, the teacher in question risked being fired.

Romer said Macedonia’s pattern of teacher evaluation, using penalties and fines was unacceptable, adding that on an international level there is no evidence that such penalties work.

“An evaluation system based on penalties will never create loyal representatives and a way to circumvent it will be always sought,” he said in Skopje on Tuesday.

“Such a system is also not objective and there is a possibility for subjective evaluation of teachers,” he added.

Bringing in substitute teachers was also “not appropriate” because the right to strike was a legitimate one, he continued.

During his visit to Macedonia, Romer met the SONK president Jakim Nedelkov, the Minister of Education, Abdilakim Ademi, and the Minister of Labour, Dime Spasov, urging all parties to continue dialogue.

He also held a meeting with the EU ambassador, Aivo Orav, to discuss the situation. Macedonia is an EU candidate country to EU, although the start of membership talks remains on hold.

The Ministry of Education said it had been talking to the unions since last August. “For some of the subjects we achieved a convergence of views and negotiations are still in progress on other topics”, it said.

The strike began on January 20 at the start of the second semester in elementary and high schools in Macedonia.

In its strike call, SONK advised teachers to come to work but not to carry out their daily assignments.

There are contradictory statements about the success of the general strike. SONK president Nedelkov claims that the strike has been successful in almost 100 per cent of the schools in the country.

At the same time, in some parts of the country, schools are said to be working normally because substitute teachers were brought in to replace strikers. According to media reports, the strike is more successful in the western than in the eastern part of the country.

SONK has around 30,000 members in all levels of education.

SONK chief Nedelkov claims that pressure is being exerted on the strikers, involving use of threats to lower salaries as well as fines.
 

 

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