Jam tomorrow jars with teachers;Briefing

5th June 1998 at 01:00
Germany. Staff have been forced to agree to work longer hours with a promise of a pay-back in the future, reports Yojana Sharma

Teachers in several western German states are being forced to put in extra hours that won't be paid back for at least five years.

The arrangement - called work accounts - means younger teachers will put in longer hours for the same pay. Their hours will be reduced when they are older, or they will be able to opt for early retirement. In the past two years, despite protests by teachers country-wide, an extra two hours has been added to the 24-hour working week. This is to fill gaps left by squeezed budgets in the run-up to the switch to the single European currency and recruitment freezes.

In Lower Saxony, extra hours for teachers under 50 will be compulsory from September with compensatory reductions in hours allowed only after 2003. In the south-western state of Baden-Wuerttemburg the work-account system is already in use.

Until a few days ago Berlin's 33,000 teachers still had a 23-hour week. However, a deal struck with their union (the GEW) will mean they have to put in up to two extra hours a week until 2004, when they are to be paid back with reduced hours.

The GEW had opposed work accounts and only agreed in return for a pledge by the Berlin authorities that they would employ 600 newly-qualified teachers in part-time posts at two-thirds of the entry-level wage. Last autumn none of the 730 graduates training in Berlin schools was given a permanent job.

The deal staved off a major strike and the GEW considers it a victory that the scheme is limited to four years. The government says it is the only way to avoid more severe cuts.

Berlin schools will need more teaching hours because they are to start teaching English from age eight rather than age 10. However the city does not have the cash to employ 900 extra teachers needed for the project.

After 2003 the fall in the birth rate will begin to reduce pressure on teachers and the education budget and up to 25 per cent of the teaching force will be retired, freeing up funds for younger, cheaper teachers.

The average age of Berlin teachers is 46, and 48 in the grammar schools - making them among the oldest school staff in the countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Erhard Laube of the GEW said: "Some 3,000 teaching jobs will be scrapped by 1999 in Berlin. Only in 1999 can we think of recruitment."

Meanwhile, in the former East Germany, teachers' working hours - and incomes - are going down because of the falling birth rate.

In several states wages will be reduced to 81 per cent of current levels over six years. Teachers in the state of Thuringia have the choice to reduce their working hours to two-thirds or half and receive 70 or 60 per cent of the full-time wage.

And last week in Brandenburg - the eastern state neighbouring Berlin - the GEW agreed teachers will be on two-thirds of their pay for two-thirds the working hours in order to stave off large-scale lay-offs.

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