NEWS BRIEFS

Education Minister and unions meet to discuss university crisis

Education Minister Milan Ftáčnik met university rectors, faculty deans and representatives of the trade unions sheltering employees of the education and science sectors March 19 to discuss the tough conditions the year will bring to the school and university systems.

During the meeting, trade union representative Milan Vachula said that while he respected Ftáčnik and the Education Ministry's decisions, he did not exclude the possibility that teachers at some schools could go on strike in critical situations. He added that more than 50% of teachers and professors live on the edge of poverty, and said that under current conditions it might easily happen that salaries will not be paid.

Ftáčnik confirmed that this year is expected to bring extremely severe conditions to schools. He also promised that the government would shift additional finances from non-budgetary sources to finance education. He also said that the new policies of the ministry would hopefully prevent financial crises in the coming years.

The talks were held in reaction to an appeal of the Association of Universities and the trade unions to maintain teachers' real wages at the 1998 level, and adopt a law which would secure additional finances for the education sector to valorise wages and secure smooth university operation.

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