Educators in Serbia demand fair wages, dignity for work

Teachers and their unions have been demanding basic wages at par with the average wage in the country and reduction in non-academic work. Unions held a massive rally in Belgrade on September 24 to press these demands

September 29, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Teachers Protest - Serbia
Teachers protest in Belgrade, Serbia. (Photo: via Trade Union UGS ‘INDEPENDENCE’)

Teachers and their unions in Serbia have intensified their struggle for a rise in wages and reduction of non-academic work. On Sunday, September 24, a massive rally was held in the Serbian capital of Belgrade where the teachers protested in front of the National Assembly and marched in the city raising banners reading, “Respected Teacher; Dignified Serbia!,” “For the dignity of the profession,” “The salaries do not follow inflation,” and “Neither justice nor money.” 

Organizations including the Union of Workers in Education of Serbia, the Union of Education of Serbia, the Union of Teachers’ Union of Serbia, and the Trade Union UGS ‘INDEPENDENCE’ had given the call for protest. Political groups such as the Green-Left Front and the Together party expressed solidarity with the protesting teachers. The Union of High School Students of Serbia (UNSS) also expressed solidarity with the teachers.

Educators had hit the streets earlier on September 21 when negotiations between unions and the Working Group for Primary and Secondary Education, formed by the government, failed as no agreement was reached on their demands. The teachers have been demanding an increase of 12,000 Serbian Dinars (RSD) (USD 108) to their basic rate of RSD 74,600 (USD 671.40) per month in order to upgrade their pay range to the current average monthly salary in the country which is RSD 86,500 (USD 778.50). The unions have called for more protests in October if the government fails to address their concerns.

Prior to the protest on Tuesday, the Union of Education of Serbia told Masina, “The authorities reject or completely ignore our demands for equalizing the average salary of employees in education with the average salary of employees in the Republic of Serbia and solving the problem of extensive administration in schools. Teachers and all employees of the public education system are performing less and less educational functions, and more administrative and formal ones. Discrimination is being committed in the educational system against a section of employees who constitute an inseparable component of quality education in Serbia. With this protest, we want to express dissatisfaction with the material position of employees in educational institutions, as well as the status in society that has been collapsing for years.”

The Together political party said in a statement, “Today, more than ever, the educational profession in Serbia is devalued, the people who educate and care for our children are deeply humbled and scared. There is no future without investment in education.”

Milos Karavezic from the leadership of the Union of the Communist Youth of Yugoslavia (SKOJ) told People’s Dispatch on September 28 that “the education in our country has been deteriorating since the counter-revolution in the year 2000, when the process of turning the education from a human right into a commodity started. While the teachers in public schools have miserable salaries and no authority in the classroom, the private high schools are becoming more and more frequent—while in socialist Yugoslavia quality education was available to everyone, nowadays it became the privilege of the rich.”