The sluggish implementation of the Collective Contract

As in many other areas, Kosovo institutions are falling behind with the implementation of the Collective Contract.

It has been more than a year since the trade union of education signed an agreement with the Ministry of Education for faster implementation of the Collective Contract, but on the ground things seem are not really moving. In April 2014, when the Collective Contract for education workers was signed, it was expected that its implementation will begin in January 2015. But it’s already October 2015 and there are still schools in Kosovo in which education workers have no contracts.

The content of the Collective Contract was the result of working group meetings between the union of education and the Ministry of Education. The approximation of positions was improved by the singing of the General Collective Contract between the Government and the Social Economic Council, at the time composed of UITUK (BSPK), the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce and the Kosovo Business Alliance. In theory, such a level of representation is important, as it shouldn’t leave room for manipulation with education workers’ rights. However, practically, the real situation points out the irresponsibility of all the signatory parties.

This kind of irresponsible behaviour characterizes the United Trade Union of Education as well, which rather than behaving like a proper trade union and taking action, including organizing protests, it has only issued some feeble statement and then remained quiet. This reaction has left “unpunished” the signatory institutions, who bear none of the consequences for their behaviour. 

In any case, the collective contract for workers in education includes, among others, 26 key issues related to education, including employment method(s), mandatory individual employment contracts, quotas, conditions to retain employment, identification of positions that become redundant after introduction of technology, maternity leave for women, meals, travel allowances, the question of the nature of teachers’ work, their duties to the employers, etc.

Municipalities are in charge of the implementation of the Collective Contract in pre-university education, not central authorities. Municipalities have to organize the logistics of the learning process, but they are not in charge of the curricula and other general issues. However, some municipalities have continued to be irresponsible and, despite the institutional dependency structures, central authorities nor unions are not blameless.

The Ministry of Education and the union agreed to leave sectorial issues to school managing bodies or to the local directorates of education. However, the transfer of authority on these matters to the municipalities or directorates of education doesn’t mean that central authorities should stop monitoring progress of processes.

It took UTUESC about a year to realize that the Collective Contract is not being implemented. On October 26, in a press release, the union stated how, by visiting Kosovo municipalities and in co-operation with teachers, it realized that the municipal directorates of education (MED) are delaying the provision of individual labour contracts, allowing employees of pre-university education to work without labour contracts.

“This delay has no justification, because the standard individual labour contract, with a unified text for the whole territory of Kosovo, was finalized before the end of the last school year and was promoted to the media by Minister Bajrami” states the press release. It adds that conversations with teachers made clear that some of the MEDs, on top of delaying the signing of individual labour contracts, tend to not respect the Administrative Instruction no. 10 of MEST regarding the Labour Contracts of Teachers in Pre-University Education.

“This instruction dated September 1, 2015 clearly points who can be awarded a lifetime contract. In order to address any potential uncertainties on Administrative Instruction nr.10, MEST sent MEDs the full content of the individual labour contracts”, reports UTUESC’s press release, reminding municipal directors of education that they also took part in drafting the unified text for individual labour contracts together with MEST and UTUESC, and agreed to the final version; thus they are in no position to play dumb or cause delays.

“UTUESC would like to remind MEDs that it is currently collecting all the complaints from teachers that have been victims of injustice and will present them to MEST, seeking for serious and immediate commitment from the Central Department of Inspections, as well as those in the regions” is stated further. UTUESC has encouraged its members to be speak up and to report all the facts on the violations they were subjected to by MEDs; they will have UTUESC’s full support in the process. “We believe in the concrete actions of MEST. We are confident of thus because we have collaborated with MEST and education inspectors in more than one case and we have brought the justice to the cases at hand” reads the closing argument of the press release.

Although this statement proves that unionists have started to take action, it does not justify the lethargic delays and their apathy. The behaviour of the other parties involved, both the agreement signatories and those indirectly involved, is also unforgiveable. A functional society is that which respects the laws and agreements issued for the protection of its members.

Emine Klaiqi
Prishtina, October 2015