No Agreement Following Meeting between Education Minister and Unions

By 20 November 2019

ZAGREB, November 20, 2019 - A meeting between Education Minister Blaženka Divjak and union representatives regarding the issue of making up for lost lessons during the ongoing teachers' strike did not end with any concrete results and the unions rejected Minister Divjak's proposal to at least hold classes for eighth graders and high school graduate students.

"We have to understand that entrenched attitudes will not resolve anything and we have to think about a strategy of cooperation that will enable us to work on something we all say we support. We will become a mature society when we realise that there is no alternative to the strategy of cooperation," Divjak said after the meeting.

Representatives of all three education-sector unions attended today's meeting with the education minister. The children's ombudsman was also invited but she failed to attend, which Divjak commented on by saying that very few people wanted to get involved in resolving concrete problems and that the current situation could not be resolved by only one or two people or institutions.

She underscored that she agreed with the unions that the students who were most jeopardised were eighth graders and high school graduate students who needed to complete the school year in order to enrol for further education.

"I put a proposal to the unions that lessons for eighth graders and high school graduates be organised so that we can at least ensure that lessons are not lost, as losing lessons means that exams will have to be postponed and students' further education is jeopardised. The unions did not agree," Divjak said.

The minister and unions also discussed various scenarios of how to make up for lost lessons, reschedule exams and complete the school year as well as the possibility of conducting lessons during the holidays to make up for lost time.

Commenting on Labour and Pension Minister Josip Aladrović's reaction to her comment that she did not "wish to participate in power games between the government and unions," which he described as unfair and as passing the buck, Divjak said that "the truth hurts sometimes."

"When I say that I made a recommendation to the prime minister and relevant ministers about what we can do in this situation - primarily to open a dialogue and not be entrenched and fire at each other - that is the truth. I'm ready to take on my part of the responsibility as part of the government," she said.

Divjak added that she could not make a recommendation to the unions for something that she had no backing for, which, she said, was responsible behaviour.

Asked whether she would step down, she said that she had been constructive and consistent in her work and that she would remain in her post as long as she could see that the problems could be solved and she could make a contribution.

Independent Secondary School Union leader Branimir Mihalinec told reporters that making up for the time spent on strike while the strike was still ongoing was unallowable.

He underscored that the unions presented their views of the problems, which he said were not caused by the unions or employees in education but were the consequence of irresponsible government policies.

"This is really an awkward situation. The government does not wish to solve the problem. There are no negotiations or talks. There are no indications that the strike can end and it can only end when we negotiate an offer which is that good that people will accept it," said Mihalinec.

More news about the strike can be found in the Politics section.