Prague - It's been a while since the trade unions in the education sector have had such a support behind them. At least 5600 schools across the Czech Republic are expected to join today's strike, which comprises over 100 thousand employees.
"More schools are still signing up. We did announce the deadline for Monday morning, but it takes longer at some places where the unions are not organized and the registration is done only after they are through with the classes," Ivana Chlumská from the organizing department of the Czech Trade Union Association (ČMOS) explained on Monday aftenoon.
Support for the protest is huge in some regions: Znojmo district will have 80 per cent of schools striking, Hradec Králové 81 and Jeseník as many as 90 per cent.
The highest number of the striking school personnel comes from the North and South Moravia. In Prague, "only"about half of all teachers support the protest, which still makes the capital the third largest strike bastion with 11 thousand workers taking a day off to protest.
Central Bohemia and Ústí nad Labem region in the north are also heavily involved in the industrial action.
Baptism by fire
The new Minister of Education Ondřej Liška (Green Party) thus gets a real baptism by fire.
He is to be received by the president at 11:00 AM to be sworn in, and two hours later, the strike's leaders will await him in front of the ministry to read him the message they have sent to the parents of pupils.
In it, the trade union leaders claim the strike came at the most opportune time. Next year, the letter says, will be too late to cry. The amount of money that the education sector receives for the books and other school accessories for the kids is hardly sufficient today, and will be even more limited next year, the striking teachers say.
That's why they call their protest a strike for the parents and the pupils. The trade unions did not think it odd to stage a strike on the very day the new minister takes an oath of office.
And they make very little of the promise made by his party colleague, member of parliament Olga Zubová (also briefly considered for the ministerial post), who conditioned her support for the next year's state budget by the increase in teachers' salaries.
While Zubová was able to convince the coalition to add one more billion to the budget of the ministry, trade unions want three times as much - two and a half for salaries, and half a billion for school accessories.
Refusal to bear the brunt of the reform
The leader of the school trade unions says it is not The Green Party, which the strike is aimed against, but the government's reform plans.
"This government has been the first after a long time to touch salaries of the teachers, asking them to bear the brunt of the reform," František Dobšík, the head of the trade union of the education sector workers, said in a Czech TV debate on Sunday.
The average monthly salary of a Czech teacher is 23,000 crowns, which is above the overall average salary level in the Czech Republic. According to the latest figures released last week by the Czech Bureau of Statistics (ČSÚ), the average monthly salary in the Czech Republic is 21,470 Czech crowns.
Mr. Dobšík believes the average salary in the education sector should be somewhere around 30,000 crowns.
Last time teachers' strike took place was the year 2003. Individual workers who don't agree with the industrial action still have a right to work today and the school headmasters ought to give them something to do while the classes are suspended.