Government considers teachers’ demands [Archives:2006/941/Front Page]

April 27 2006

Mustafa Ragih
SANA'A, April 23 ) Teachers union sources revealed that a government committee has been formed to consider teachers' demands regarding settling their salaries according to the teacher law and removing harm inflicted upon them as a result of enforcing the wage strategy. The committee is composed of the Ministers of Education, Civil Service and Technical Education.

A joint statement issued last Sunday by the three teachers unions referred to their April 16 dialogue with the prime minister and the said committee's formation. The round of dialogue comes via implementing directives President Ali Abdullah Saleh gave during a meeting with teachers union leadership prior to his departure for his recent China visit.

At that time, he had directed the government to understand and respond to teachers' demands according to the law's provisions. The meeting with Saleh resulted in the teachers unions suspending their protests in response to his request. The unions affirmed that questions pertaining to removing illegal measures and suppressive acts against teachers during protest movements topped their dialogue subjects with the president.

Such dialogue with the president also touched on stopping compulsory monthly deductions from teacher salaries in favor of the pro-government Union of Educational Professions. They describe the deductions as arbitrary, illegal and conflicting with freedom of union action based on voluntary affiliation and freedom of teachers making donations, as well as coercion benefiting a certain side.

The unions stressed the necessity of government authorities respecting freedom of union action and its plurality. Meanwhile, the prime minister directed stopping such deductions and letting unions collect donations without interference by official sides. Nevertheless, the unions say the directives have not been put into effect, attributing this to the “corruption lobby” hindering their enforcement.

The prime minister has referred the teachers' grievances regarding suppressive actions taken during protests to the Minister of Legal Affairs to get a legal opinion about them. Such measures included dispensing with some teachers' services and transferring others, salary deductions and other administrative punishments. They also included bringing college of education students from governorates to replace protesting teachers and threatening to permanently replace the teachers with such students.

Teachers union chairman Ahmed Al-Rabahi said in press statements that dialogue with the government committee will focus on compatible wage strategy application. He added that if teachers' demands remain unmet until May 10, protests will resume.