Bulgarian teachers strike, demanding higher wages

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SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Bulgarian public school teachers walked off the job Monday demanding higher wages and increased government spending on education.

The strike follows weeklong protests in front of the government building in the capital, Sofia, where teachers called for a 100 percent pay rise starting next year, and an allocation of at least 5 percent of the country's gross domestic product for education.

More than 80 percent of teachers have joined the protest, according to the strike committee, after weeklong negotiations with the education ministry failed.

There are about 100,000 teachers in Bulgaria's public schools, and according to government figures their average monthly wage is 440 leva (euro225; (US$317).

The government has offered a 15 percent wage increase starting in January 2008, and a second 15 percent increase in July 2008. It plans to spend about 4.3 percent of GDP on education in 2008, up from 4.18 percent this year.

Education Minister Daniel Valchev dismissed the teachers' demands for a doubling of wages as "unfeasible."

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