Burgstaller wants to cut summer holidays

Gabi Burgstaller is under attack after suggesting shorter holidays for teachers.

The Social Democratic (SPÖ) governor of the province of Salzburg said yesterday (Tues) primary and secondary modern teachers “should have holidays of five weeks a year as everyone else”.

Burgstaller told the Kurier the nine-week summer break should be cut to help parents. She claimed that many people were kept from spending holidays together due to the current regulations. Burgstaller said many parents could not take time off simultaneously to avoid leaving their kids unattended in summer.

“There should be coaching for pupils on offer at schools in summer,” Burgstaller suggested. She indicated that the service must be free of charge. The governor called for higher salaries for young teachers to make the job a more attractive option. Burgstaller suggested that their incomes should not increase as strongly as at the moment later on.

Paul Kimberger, the new head of the teachers’ council, harshly criticised Burgstaller for her statements. Kimberger braded the left-winger’s ideas as “populist”. He said today that Burgstaller expressed them at the “worst possible time”. Kimberger underlined that talks between his team and the government about education reforms were about to reach a decisive phase.

Kimberger said the federal government coalition should “finally reveal its plans”. SPÖ Education Minister Claudia Schmied, SPÖ Minister for Public Servants Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek and Finance Minister Maria Fekter of the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) are at the ready to meet teachers’ representatives for talks about wages, working hours and other issues in the coming days.

Reports have it that the government plans to demand more flexibility from academics as far their working hours are regarded. The SPÖ-ÖVP administration is not expected to manage to get the green light for a general increase of weekly working hours by the teachers’ committee.

Schmied said around three years ago that the country’s Volksschule (primary school) and Hauptschule (secondary modern) teachers should work two hours more a week without being paid more for their extra efforts. The teachers’ works council warned to hold strikes. Schmied eventually scrapped her plans. Many newspaper columnists turned their guns on SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann for failing to support Schmied in this regard at that time.

The negotiations about education structures and contract details comes shortly after Fekter said teachers should spend 27 hours in classrooms a week instead of 21. The finance minister explained: “I could imagine raising young teachers’ incomes by 20 per cent at the same time.”