Teachers ‘should work more’

People’s Party (ÖVP) Finance Minister Maria Fekter has intensified the increasing public budget path arguments by suggesting that young teachers should work more for less.

The ÖVP vice leader said yesterday (Thurs) young people starting in the profession could do 27 instead of 21 hours a week. She told Die Presse that her plan was to pay them for only four of these six extra hours in class. “Twenty per cent more salary for 30 per cent more work,” she concluded.

Fekter argued Austria must stop paying “exorbitant wages” to teachers. The former interior minister underlined earlier this week that she wanted to set up a debt brake by the end of the current year. This tool should ensure that the country’s debts drop and that its budget deficit declines to 0.35 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017. The alpine country’s budget deficit was 4.6 per cent in 2010. It ranges around 3.9 per cent at the moment.

ÖVP officials are reportedly upset because of Fekter’s proposal considering teachers’ incomes. The minister expressed her ideas while high-ranking representatives of her party and the Social Democrats (SPÖ) are holding talks with teachers’ labour union chiefs. The negotiating teams are discussing details of future teachers’ work contracts to make the Austrian education system more efficient and less expensive.

It is understood that SPÖ Education Minister Claudia Schmied, ÖVP education affairs expert Werner Amon and works council leaders agree about higher payments to teachers in their first years in the job. The government allegedly plans to increase wages less strongly for them throughout their career. These measures should, according to the coalition, encourage more young Austrians to become teachers in primary and secondary schools. Experts warned of a lack of teachers in the coming decades as many of those who are currently active are set to retire soon.

Schmied refused to comment on Fekter’s statements today but stressed that there were “no taboos” in the current negotiations with Amon and teachers’ union officials. Amon told the Kurier today it was “not a good idea” to debate individual possibilities in public. Teachers’ union leaders made clear today they felt “derided” by Fekter’s claims that young teachers were paid too much these days. They pointed out that those fresh in the job received not more than approximately 1,300 Euros before tax.

Labour union chiefs also underlined that the work of Austria’s 110,000 teachers was not limited to their time in classrooms. They stressed teachers had to take care of a lot of tasks at home – and said they were certain that Fekter certainly did more than just holding speeches in parliament. Negotiators told the press that the finance minister’s proposal was “bizarre, even in crisis times.”

It is not the first time that Fekter caused public outcry with a statement. The minister decided to apologise publicly for comparing the increasingly hostile attitude of the people towards bankers with what Europe’s Jewish community had to endure before and during World War Two (WWII).

The Austrian finance minister is a popular interview partner among the correspondents of Europe’s leading broadcasting companies and newspapers for being infamously blunt about planned measures by the European Union’s (EU) finance ministers. Fekter also won notoriety for her English. She once said about the economic situation of Greece and possible measures to save the country from ruin: “Time is shortly. And if you now plan to ask me what I mean with shortly, I will tell you: shortly.”