Serbian teachers intensified protests over job and wage cuts 22 December as parliament began talks on a 2015 draft budget that would further slash the public-sector workforce.
The spending plan proposes eliminating 5 percent of staff at government agencies and publicly owned companies, amounting to about 27,000 jobs, Balkan Insight reports – the latest austerity measure imposed by a government scrambling to adhere to International Monetary Fund and European Union dicta to cut the bloated state budget.
Four teachers’ unions that went on strike last month – cutting class times to demand that they be excluded from a 10 percent cut in public sector salaries imposed in October – vowed to intensify their job action on 22 December, pledging to shut down some 1,000 schools, according Balkan Insight and inSerbia.
About 300 of the country’s 1,768 schools did not hold classes, mostly outside Belgrade. Education Minister Srdjan Verbic called for disciplinary action against teachers who walked out, B92 reported, citing comments by the minister in a television interview.
Teachers’ union leaders said their next move could be to refuse to go back to work after the holiday break, Balkan Insight writes. A representative of one union, Slobodan Brajkovic, said wages in the education sector have fallen 45 percent since 2006.
The 2015 budget was to have been approved by lawmakers 15 December but negotiations with the IMF pushed adoption past the deadline, according to Balkan Insight. The fund agreed 20 November to provide Serbia with a 1 billion euro ($1.22 billion), three-year standby loan.
The fund suspended a previous loan agreement in 2012 when Belgrade failed to meet targets for spending and reducing public debt.
This article was originally published on Transitions Online.