In December representatives of the most peaceful profession – teachers – went on warning strikes in Lithuania twice. As was informed by Lithuanian mass media, part or all teachers at hundreds of schools and kindergarten did not give the first classes and kindergarten teachers did not work for several hours. Teachers demanded higher wages, smaller classes and groups and a larger compensation fund for retiring teachers.
People on the streets were full of resentment. “We are pushed to the corner, – Ruta Osipaviciute, a teacher at one of Vilnius schools, told journalists during the strike. – I think the government has made so many promises to the educational society that we think we need to seek their fulfillment.”
Once again they remained unheard. The ministry promises wages of lowest-earning teachers will be increased by 7% next year. Young new teachers will see their wages rise by 5%, and wages for the remaining teachers will increase by 3%. Quotha! No wonder, despite the planned increases, teachers’ trade unions say they are not sufficient. Lithuania’s authorities agreed to satisfy only some of teachers’ demands and will give them additional EUR 10 million instead of EUR 100 million needed!
It is indisputable that there are some issues that should remain among the government’s priorities in any event. I mean medical, educational, social and military spheres. But increasing in financing of one of them shouldn’t be done to the detriment of others.
Obviously, this time the Ministry of National Defence has labored harder than the Ministry of Education and Science to make sure that the new budget’ details work to their employers’ benefit. It is known Lithuania’s parliament made a decision to increase the country’s defense budget for 2016 to EUR 575.2 million, up 35.3 percent compared with a year earlier. Lithuanian Defense Minister Juozas Olekas said in a statement that the hike in military expenditures will allow the ministry “to plan further modernization of weaponry and to ensure the commitments to NATO allies.” Being great patriots most Lithuanians, including teachers, support the government in its desire to modernize the army, but some recently announced plans have nothing in common with the announced aims.
It should be said that Lithuanians are very politically educated and government can rely on their consciousness concerning national security. Probably it is not the case.
While teachers try to persuade the authorities to improve their living standards, Ministry of Defence some days ago reveals the plans to buy more than 50 cars. It is going to pay EUR 1.6 million for them. Let’s compare: after teachers’ strikes the government agreed to increase the retirement fund for teachers by EUR 1.5 million next year. Does it mean that all retiring teachers deserve the same amount of money as 60 generals and colonels who will use new cars?
While the dreams of Lithuanian commanding officers of comfortable new cars have come true, the teachers’ desires of better labor conditions will not change noticeably in foreseeable future.
In this situation, the worst is that Lithuanian authorities unwittingly customize Lithuanians against military. No one will understand why buying new cars for military chiefs is of urgent need while teachers’ salaries are of secondary importance. Such procurements look more than strange and injudicious. There is nothing good in setting military against other citizens. In case of war they will trench together!
*Adomas Abromaitis, a Lithuanian expatriate living in the United Kingdom