The teacher strike in Bulgaria that began on 24 Sep has now entered its third week, and a clear resolution to the impasse is still not in sight.
Bulgarian teachers are demanding a 100% pay rise, to be implemented from now until the 1 July 2008, and a much-needed 5% of the GDP be designated for education in the 2008 national budget. So far, all negotiations with the government have broken down without any progress made.
On 11 October, 40 000 teachers from all over the country gathered in Sofia to witness the negotiation process between the teacher unions and the Council of Ministers. But the Finance Minister Plamen Oresharski had shown up so late that when he finally appeared, the union negotiation team had already left the venue.
Bulgarian law has also made taking industrial actions more difficult for teachers: despite being on strike, they are legally required to remain in the school premises during school hours. All union meetings can only take place after that.
The Balkan country of less than 8 million has the lowest incomes in the EU with GDP per capita at around a third of the bloc's average. The average monthly salary of a teacher is only 340.78 levs (174 euros). Even with a 100% salary increase, their salary would still be lower than their counterparts in neighbouring countries such as Serbia and Romania.
EI strongly supports the struggle of Bulgarian teachers. "The provision of quality public education is the responsibility of the government and it should devote the necessary resources for it. This includes paying decent wages and giving decent working conditions to teachers," said EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen.
EI member organisations from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) which met from 4-6 Oct in Riga, Latvia, for the EI CEE Round Table also declared their full support of their Bulgarian colleagues.
EI affiliates, SEB and PODKREPA, which launched the strike, thank all colleagues from around the world who have shown their support. SEB spokesperson, Ms Kounka Damianova, makes a worldwide appeal for support: "The strike will go on, and we need letters of support."