Union agreement halts looming school strike

Union agreement halts looming school strike
Sweden’s teacher unions on Wednesday came to an agreement with employers about a rise in pay, narrowly avoiding a strike many believed was imminent.

“It was close, it was very close,” said Metta Fjelkner, chairperson for the National Union of Teachers (Lärarnas Riksförbund) to news agency TT on Wednesday evening.

After fierce negotiations, the unions and employers the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) managed to reach an agreement of a pay rise for teachers of 4.2 percent this year.

This will mean some 1,100 kronor ($167) more per month for the country’s educators, according to the unions.

“We now have an agreement in place which means that we can start re-appraising the profession – and this is crucial if we are to change the negative spiral in our schools,” said Fjelkner in a statement on Wednesday.

The chairwoman for the Swedish Teachers’ Union (Lärarförbundet), Eva-Lis Sirén, told news agency TT that the agreement will boost teachers’ salaries – a first step toward raising the status of the teaching profession in Sweden:

“But it is far from the levels we will need to turn around the national teacher shortage,” she said.

The pay rise for this year will be paid out retroactively from April 1st, which will give teachers a lump sum of 9,000 kronor on average as well as the monthly increase.

However, the National Union of Teachers nearly scuppered the deal, in which case a strike would have been hard to avoid.

Six out of the fifteen members of the union board had registered their reservations against accepting the bid on Tuesday.

The unions were driving a hard bargain, demanding 10,000 kronor more a month for teachers in the long term.

Fjelkner firmly believes they will reach that goal eventually:

“I have great hopes that a large number of Sweden’s teachers will have much higher salaries by 2016-2017 than today,” she said to TT.

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