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article imageDutch primary school teachers go on mass strike for better wages

By AFP     Oct 5, 2017 in World

Tens of thousands of Dutch primary teachers went on a day's strike Thursday to demand better wages and a reduced workload, closing schools across one of the world's most literate countries.

Carrying placards saying "Teachers are furious" and "Pay up!", thousands of teachers gathered at a park in The Hague and demanded that the incoming government pay some 1.4 billion euros ($1.6 billion) to improve their salaries and work conditions.

Teachers want at least 900 million euros to bring their salaries on a par with high school colleagues, while the rest of the amount should be used to alleviate work stress, Dutch media reports said.

Protesters warned that if Prime Minister Mark Rutte's new government -- expected to be announced later this month -- fails to agree, they will consider striking for two days next month.

The protest affected "a large part of some 6,500 schools across the country," the Dutch newscaster RTL reported.

Strikes are unusual in the Netherlands.

"We are on strike because we want a better future for our younger colleagues. They have enormous pressures," Merian van Goethaem, a teacher from the southern city of Tilburg told AFP.

"The difference between primary and secondary education (salaries) is almost 600 euros per month. It's just a lot of money," added Michelle Onderwater, a teacher from Leiden.

Sources told Dutch newspapers the new coalition planned to make available almost 500 million euros for primary school teachers, almost double the amount previously set aside.

"It's really good news. But the salary gap has not been bridged yet," an official of one of the striking teachers' groups told the popular daily Algemeen Dagblad.

"Also, we would like to see it in black and white first," the official added.

Dutch primary teachers spend more hours in class than the international average, a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development in 2014 said.

The teachers averaged some 930 hours over a single school year, compared to the OECD's average of 782 hours and the European Union average of 754 hours.

The Netherlands ranked as the tenth most-literate nation in the world behind top ranking Finland and other Scandinavian countries, according to a study published last year by the Central Conneticut State University.


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