Plenković Addresses Striking Education Workers, They Remain Silent

By 21 November 2019

ZAGREB, November 21, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday addressed striking education sector unions after their silent protest, calling for a compromise and for ending the strike for the good of children.

"It is in my interest for children to go to school and for us not to fall behind schedule, not just with regard to making-up time but with regard to the holidays and graduation examinations as well. We have to act responsibly. I appeal above all to teachers, principals, parents and children - it is not good to not go to school. If we want to move forward, we have to learn and in order to learn, teachers have to do their job," Plenković told reporters in front of Government House.

Asked if he was surprised by the reaction of the unions who after he addressed them raised a banner in front of his face without saying a word, Plenković said that that was democratic and that he did not see any problem in that.

He said that the dialogue with the unions would continue in an effort to find a solution and repeated what the government had done and offered so far so that employees in primary and secondary schools could be guaranteed a 20% higher wage during the term of his government.

"With regard to indices, seeing that this applies to a large number of people - a total of 90,000 people in primary and secondary education - the volume of funds that is required is higher. We said - let's conduct an analysis of (job complexity) indices to see what the complexity of each job is worth," Plenković claimed, adding that the issue of indices would be resolved after the analysis but that that did not mean the government did not want dialogue.

Asked whether the issue of indices should have been dealt with earlier and not at the end of his term, Plenković said that there were several layers to that story and that the substance was a higher wage.

"The issue of dignity, which I understand, has existed for almost twenty years or so. The unions know how many changes to indices have occurred. That is the accumulated responsibility of not just this government but of all the governments so far," he said.

The essence of his message, he said, "is that we should consider everything with a fresh view and see how much that is really worth. "The most important thing that I appeal for is compromise."

Asked to comment on the fact that it appears that the unions will not back down, Plenković said that there is no other way than to talk.

Asked to comment on a recent statement by Education Minister Blaženka Divjak that she would not participate in the "power games" between the prime minister and unions, he said that they had not had time these past few days to talk.

"The matter of the fact is that anyone in charge of a portfolio wants things to be better in that portfolio. That is logical and I understand every minister. It is also important to know that the government has to be a team, it has to have a single line. If you have a line that is not acting united, then that's awkward," he said, adding that he would talk with Divjak about that.

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