Monday, 18 December 2017 | News today: 14

Nedelkov: Salaries in education institutions to be in accordance with the real possibilities of the state budget

The President of the Independent Trade Union for Education, Science and Culture (SONK) Jakim Nedelkov, dismisses speculation that the strike is canceled under pressure from the government, expressing hope that negotiations with the Education Ministry will reach a compromise over the outstanding salary issues, collective agreements and the Laws on Primary and Secondary Education. Nedelkov emphasizes that he supports external testing and that he is not advocating the abolition of penalties, but looking to build a healthy system of real labor evaluation, according to which there will be penalties, but career advancement as well.

After the meeting at the Ministry of Education, SONK assessed that the talks were constructive, after which decided to put the strike on hold. What did the Ministry promise you?

Nedelkov: Yes, it is true that our assessment was that the talks at the Education Ministry were constructive, where we tackled all questions that we submitted to the Education Ministry long ago. What the Ministry promised was that the social dialogue between the Education Ministry and SONK should continue as soon as possible and to find acceptable solutions for both sides.

After the meeting at the Education Ministry, SONK’s Council held a session that discussed the meeting between SONK and the Education Ministry, a session that lasted for several hours and where it was decided to put the strike on hold.

Were there any tense moments during the talks? Is the information that you were under pressure during the talks correct?

Nedelkov: As I mentioned previously, the talks were held in a correct atmosphere, of course, without any pressures. The were pressures on SONK’s membership and leadership during the past few weeks, after we decided to strike.

Government’s decision to raise the salaries by four percents includes the professors as well. What is the amount of the salary that SONK requires for the educational workers?

Nedelkov: Yes, this year the government plans to increase the salary of budget users, including the professors, by four percents. This increase is envisaged for 2014, while we request to begin negotiations for salary increase in education that would begin with realization in 2015. The salary increase request will be determined on the basis of our arguments and the actual (real) possibilities in terms of the state budget, but I’ll repeat, not by replacing the real arguments with the political ones.

Could you explain your other requirements in terms of resolving the collective agreements and revising the Laws on Primary and Secondary Education?

Nedelkov: The current Laws on Primary and Secondary Education include provisions that penetrate deep into the social sphere of teachers and professors. Namely, we want the Education Ministry to immediately stop punishing and rewarding the teachers on the basis of the results from the external evaluation of students, as well as initiating proceedings to amend the legal solution in this section. Our deep belief is that this kind of assessment of teachers’ work is inadequate, with many flaws, and therefore unreal. External testing yes, but for a different purpose.

It is necessary to revise the penalty provisions of the Laws on Primary and Secondary Education. These laws stipulate fines, which are not appropriate neither for the laws, nor for the severity of the “offense made​​”, nor the amount of salaries in education. According to the basic law for workers, the Labor Law, the maximum fine for a worker is 15 percent of the salary up to six months. Fines in education are legally doubled, i.e. teachers, according to the results of external testing, shall be fined 15 percent of the salary for 12 months. The question is whether teachers are a special group of workers in the country, to whom specific laws shall apply, laws that shall fine, on average, several payments, without even taking into account the meaning of fined teachers or teachers put on the “list of shame “, shame that they will have before the eyes of their students, parents, family …

 

Just to be clear – SONK does not put any efforts to stop penalties, on the contrary – it strives for establishment of realistic evaluation of workers’ labor, which will embrace more parameters that influence work quality assessment, hence we will solely discuss penalties, but also rewards and career advancement.

Also, SONK urges urgent withdrawal of the latest law amendments to the Law on Primary and Secondary Education, particularly regarding limitations to the right to strike and legalization of strikebreaking during strike.

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Do you think you have chosen a good time for strike regarding the opportunity to accomplish most of your demands, considering the political crisis in the country, while the government is focused on resolution of greater political issues from which EC’s progress report depends on?

Nedelkov: Our activities for realization of our demands have begun long time ago, not one or two months ago. Namely, we held serious talks with the three ministries which cover our field of work and most of the issues were open, which are actually our current demands. We were reassured that after the early parliamentary elections, if the incumbent coalition wins, it will apply serious approach toward our problems in education, science and culture. Unfortunately, that is not the case, although SONK’s Council has submitted several requests for more constructive approach toward social dialogue and partnership.

From trade union’s point of view, our demands are urgent and SONK’s leadership – SONK’s Council – is focused on the problems our member are facing and is looking for a solution.

There were different opinions on whether children should stay home during the professors’ strike. Should pupils be involved in the problem or is it possible for a strike to take place without hindering the educational process?

Nedelkov: Right to strike of all workers in Macedonia is guaranteed by the Constitution and laws, as well as by international conventions our country has ratified. All education workers in the world strike same or similar to SONK. Actually, this is not SONK’s first strike. Thesis that pupils lose their right to education and that they are directly involved and used by teachers is not justified, because teachers have always been investing extra efforts and activities to make up for the lost school classes in accordance with the curriculum.

The problem became greatly politicized. Do you thing involvement of politics is more helpful than harming to accomplishment of the end goal – improvement of labor rights and education workers standard?

Nedelkov: Politics is inevitable in everyday life. In our Union, there are members who are sympathizers of different political options, but the only SONK’s policy is the one of a trade union. There were attempts, there has been and there will certainly be such who would try to politicize all activities and some even thought they could gain profit, but all such efforts were unfruitful. Our members know that SONK is always prepared to also resolve problems of individuals, to stand up and fight for their rights.

Some media have published that the opposition is behind the organization protest. Were there such attempts?

Nedelkov: The protests was organized and held on August 1, this year, following SONK’s Council Decision as a warning for stopping negotiations with SONK. Nobody else has neither organized, nor participated in it, besides speculations that pensioners and students took part in it. I claim most responsibly that neither for the protest, nor for the organization of the announced general strike anyone else, but SONK members, were involved.

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By: Nenad Mircevski

Photo: Aleksandar Ivanovski