Teachers ready to fight contract reform

Unionists are alarmed by news that the education ministry plans to make significant changes to teachers’ contracts.

Social Democratic (SPÖ) Education Minister Claudia Schmied reportedly wants to abolish various privileges of the country’s teachers. Works council committee officials are especially angered about claims that the minister intends to get rid of clauses which protect academics from being made redundant. They promised to fight such reforms in the upcoming rounds of the current civil law talks with Schmied and Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek, the SPÖ minister for civil servants.

A spokeswoman for the education minister announced yesterday (Tues) that the government “has no intention to introduce a hire and fire policy” in the education sector. But she added that certain aspects of teachers’ contracts contradicted common regulations of today. Education sector staff representatives said that almost none of the teachers who started their careers since 2006 were given such contracts anyway – but also underlined that they would veto a restructuring of existing and upcoming contract agreements.

Teachers’ representatives also called on Schmied to assign social workers and psychologists. They said such measures were urgently needed in many schools to ensure that teachers can concentrate on the teaching. Schmied generally welcomed the idea. However, the education minister emphasised the financial aspect of such a measure.

The government coalition of SPÖ and People’s Party (ÖVP) intends to implement a significant reform of teachers’ salary structure. Schmied wants to convince unionists that teachers should receive more in their first years before their incomes rise less strongly than under the current civil law. Austrian secondary modern teachers earn between 1,900 and 2,200 Euros a month in their first year. They get up to 4,700 Euros a month after 35 years.

SPÖ Salzburg Governor Gabi Burgstaller has been accused of being a populist by calling for a cutback of the nine-week summer holiday only a few days before the government met with teachers’ representatives for a first round of reform negotiations. Burgstaller said in an interview that primary and secondary modern teachers “should have holidays of five weeks a year as everyone else”. She pointed out that many parents struggled to find someone with time to look after their kids.

Meanwhile, a survey has shown that a vast majority of Austrians reject calls for a later start of school. Research group Karmasin interviewed 500 Austrians to find that 20 per cent want the regular starting time to change from 8am to 9am. Almost seven in 10 (69 per cent) of the 500 people the Vienna-based agency spoke with dismissed the idea which finds wide acclaim among educational experts.