Teachers are not given the adequate social assistance and healthcare - Part 2

The role of trade unions and legislation for the protection of education employees with health problems

The United Trade Union of Education, Science and Culture of Kosovo (UTUESCK) admits that the category of teachers with health problems remained outside the law and outside of institutional care. The head of UTUESCK, Rrahman Jasharaj, says that in this union, as well as in municipal unions such cases were reported to the headquarters in several occasions. "This issue and the need to find a good solution, not only for the teachers, but also for the students, was raised during the regular meetings held with MED".

He said that UTUESCK’s request is for these teachers to be eligible for early retirement, but based on merit. Jasharaj thinks the government should create a fund that would allow teachers with serious illnesses to retire early with a decent pension (not social assistance) that would be enough to cover health costs. "Pre-retirement is not regulated by law and teachers are forced to come to school just to wait for a better pension"; he continues calling this an inhuman condition, which also endangers the quality of education.

UTUESCK has no accurate data for teachers in such situation. However, it is estimated that the number of these teachers is much larger than it is indicated by education departments. The figure is never reported accurately neither by MEST, nor by UTUESCK as directors may have legal problems given that schools try to find alternative solutions to help their colleagues in view of the budgetary limitations they face.

Ardian Jonuzaj, Presidante of the Trade Union of Education and Culture of Kosovo (TUECK), says that by law there is no solution to this problem. “There is no regulation that addresses this problem. These teachers are not objective at work, they forced by circumstances to perform their duty”. Jonuzaj says that the number of cases is large, particularly of those affected by cancer and other serious illnesses that make them unable to teach. “We know only about 78 cases across the country, 50 out of which are suffering from various types of cancer, while others with diseases, such as heart diseases”.

The Ministry of Education doesn’t deny that this category has been forgotten. Azem Guri, Adviser for pre-university education of the Minister of Education, Arsim Bajrami, says that they are gathering data on educators with health problems. After collecting the data, the ministry will come up with a decision on solving this problem, with early retirement being one option.

Meanwhile, Nait Hasani, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Education, said the committee is waiting to examine the minister's proposal or any other proposal and, potentially, incorporate them into law.

According to the Law on Health and Safety at Work, article 22 "medical checks", point 2.
"The employer is obliged to submit a medical examination to all employees at least once every three (3) years". This is not enforced neither by MEST, nor by the municipal education departments. Article 7 of this law states that "the employer is obliged to implement preventive measures, based on the general principles of prevention, as: 1.5. adaptation of work to the individual, particularly in relation to the characteristics of the workplace and working environment". In the case of employed teachers, this paragraph is being violated. While, in paragraph 4 of this Article it is stated that "the employer, when he entrusts job duties to an employee, is obliged to take into account his/her skills to carry out those duties".

Meanwhile, according to the Labor Law, Article 42, "The employee is entitled to occupational safety, health and environment suitable for work in accordance with this Law and the Law on occupational safety, protection of employees' health and working environment protection". Pre-University Education Law, Article 8 "Inspection of education", in paragraph 4, provides "4.4. working environment including respect for health and safety standards, data recorded on disciplinary actions and their results. "

                                                                                                                                                       Anita Kadriu
                                                                                                                            Pristina, March 2015