Teachers gather to protest over low salaries in the city center of Zagreb, capital of Croatia, Nov. 6, 2019. Thousands of Croatian teachers who have already been striking for almost three weeks took to the streets here on Wednesday demanding higher salaries. (Dalibor Urukalovic/Pixsell via Xinhua)
ZAGREB, Nov. 6 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of Croatian teachers who have already been striking for almost three weeks took to the streets here on Wednesday demanding higher salaries.
After marching through the center of the capital, they gathered in front of the government offices at St. Mark's Square, where union leaders sent a clear message to the government that they will not back down from their demands.
"We came here to say that we will not give up. Prime minister, if you fulfill our demands, you have won. You have won because Croatia has won. If you don't fulfill them, you will be a loser," union leader Branimir Mihalinec told the crowd.
"We are protesting for better material rights because the salaries of the employees in the public sector are higher than the salaries in education. Employees in the field of education have the lowest salaries in the public sector," Croatian Teachers' Union (SHU) Secretary General Ana Tuskan told Xinhua.
Teachers and other school workers in the country started a nationwide strike on Oct. 10 with different Croatian municipalities halting classes on different days. They are demanding higher wages by increasing their job complexity indices.
On Monday, the government decided to start negotiations with the union leaders. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic announced a 6.12 percent pay increase to all public servants, but the teachers are not happy with the offer, saying that they are still underpaid compared to other public workers.
The negotiations continued on Tuesday and both parties said that they were happy with the progress. Mihalinec said on Wednesday that all members of the union would vote on the final government proposal and the majority would decide on the future of the strike.
"We are ready to go further. People are furious because they feel very disappointed, sad... I believe that the government will give us what we want because it's justified and they have to start thinking that education is very important," Tuskan told Xinhua.
One of the teachers who protested on Wednesday said that she and her colleagues were very disappointed with the government because their salaries were very low.
"We would like to be equal with other public servants in our country. The government is not taking us seriously so we are very, very dissatisfied. We came here to show them that we are not easy to be bought with their offer. We want more because we earned it and deserve it," Daliborka Rotar from a school in Kastav said.
Finance Minister Zdravko Maric told reporters on Wednesday that the strike did not make sense anymore because the salaries are rising and will continue to rise in the future.