Bulgarian teachers went on strike for pay rise

Thousands of teachers across Bulgaria went on strike Monday to demand higher wages after last-minute talks with the government failed to produce an agreement. Classes did not take place Monday morning in some 1,800 schools and 500 kindergartens in this Balkan country, the organizers from the National Teachers' Union said.

Teachers were seeking a 15 percent pay rise and a budget allocation of 5 percent of the country's gross domestic product for education. During talks with the government on Sunday, teacher unions said they would settle with a 4 percent rise in January, a 6 percent hike in July, and new pay rise talks in the autumn.

Finance Minister Plamen Oresharski, who was offering a 3 percent pay hike in January, and a 6 percent rise next July, did not agree. Lawmakers were expected to vote on the country's 2006 draft budget on Thursday, and teacher unions said they would continue the strike and stage a demonstration in front of the parliament building Thursday, if no agreement was reached by then.

There are some 100,000 teachers in Bulgaria's public schools, and their average monthly wage is 300 leva, which is about Ђ150 or US$175. The exact numbers of teachers on strike was not immediately clear, reports the AP. I.L.

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