Kosovo teachers start countrywide strike
The Union of Education, Culture and Science of Kosovo begins an all-day strike, promising a general strike if their requests are not met.
The union’s main request, directed at the Kosovo government, is the ratification of a draft law that stipulates a special status and financial compensation for teachers who taught pro bono during the ‘90s following the abolition of Kosovo’s autonomy and curricular changes during Slobodan Milosevic’s regime in 1989. According to current legislation, those years of work in the parallel system are not recognized as professional experience and affect teachers’ retirement pensions.
Rrahman Jasharaj, the head of SBASHK, said on Sunday that the government has one month to approve their request. If the government does not act, the syndicate promises to institute an indefinite strike starting on April 13.
“We hope that the government will take our remarks seriously. If things do not go as we requested, we will proceed with other strikes,” Jasharaj said.
Avni Ajdini, head of the Union of General Syndicates of Kosovo, BSPK, said that the organization fully supports SBASHK’s initiative and called for the approval of their requests.
“I call on the Minister for Finance to find the budget and fulfill our requests. We won’t accept anyone degrading our work. If teachers’ requests are not taken into consideration, different measures have to be taken,” he said, indicating a general strike.
In early February, Finance Minister Bedri Hamza met with Jasharaj to discuss their requests, and a few days later the ministry issued a press release saying that the draft-law cannot be sent to the Assembly because the funds requested are not included within the Law on the Budget of Kosovo.
“The Ministry of Finances, like in other occasions, cannot approve a draft law that does not respect the procedures of the Law on the Budget of Kosovo, the Law for the Management of Public Funds, and other documents in force,” the press release read.
In the meantime, students across Kosovo will suffer the repercussions, said Bedri Cahani, the principal of a high school in Gjakova.
“I do not organize strikes, the syndicate does, but if you would ask me, I would have acted completely differently. We could have gathered in an organized way to go to the government [building] on Saturday, and not make the students do this, as they already lost a lot of school time due to bad weather,” he said, referring to a three-day shutdown of schools after Kosovo suffered a snow storm.
The Parents’ Council of Kosovo also disapproved of the strike, saying that the teachers can voice their concerns during spring break.
“We support the teachers’ requests, but not strikes as a possible option. I think that if they want to receive approval for their requests through strikes, they should use spring break to protest in front of the government, and not interrupt the educational process,” Bajram Beqiri from the council said.