Algerian teachers vow more strikes
By Mouna Sadek for Magharebia in Algiers – 23/02/10
Unions representing Algeria's teachers on Sunday (February 21st) rejected a proposed pay increase and called for a general strike, prompting student and parent fears that the school year will be lost entirely.
CNAPEST and UNPEF will begin a prolonged strike on February 24th to protest what they are calling an unsatisfactory offer.
Following the announcement of the government plan, however, secondary school teachers' union SNAPEST decided to postpone its strike action, while the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) delayed its planned protest until March 18th.
Under the Education Ministry's proposed allowance scheme, teachers would receive a 29-32% pay increase as well as retroactive benefits.
Union representatives said that this offer falls short of their expectations, especially when compared to staggering inflation in Algeria as well as the salaries of their Moroccan and Tunisian counterparts.
CNAPEST labelled the ministry's offer a "misrepresentation of the goods".
"These salaries have been deliberately exaggerated", CNAPEST spokesperson Messaoud Boudiba said on February 21st. "The Professional Experience Allowance (IEP), for example, is being presented as a pay rise."
"Our strike will continue until we've received something concrete on our other demands," Boudiba added.
Teachers themselves were divided on the proposed salary increases. Some said the raise would allow them to live decently, while others dismissed the offer as politically motivated and designed to weaken their protests.
Education Minister Benbouker Benbouzid earlier this month called the strike "unjustified" and warned teachers that too many strikes would erode their public support.
"One strike too many…could have incalculable consequences both for teachers and their parents, and for the education community as a whole," he wrote in an open letter to teachers on February 10th.
Parents' associations are concerned that repeated strikes will disrupt their children's education. The National Union of Parent-Teachers' Associations asked the prime minister to step in quickly to resolve the ongoing labour dispute in Algerian schools.
"Nothing has come out of the marathon discussions that have been going on ever since the start of the year, and at this rate we're going to lose the whole year" of teaching, Khaled Ahmed, president of the group, said on February 16th.
One mother told Magharebia that her two sons in primary school "have not been taught" at all this year.
It may be "impossible" to make up lost teaching time this year, university lecturer Adel Abderazak told the daily El Watan on February 14th.
"With all the strikes held in the past and planned for the future, the cumulative effect is that teaching is about two months behind where it should be at this time of the year," he added.
Imane, a student who faces her baccalaureate examination this year, told Magharebia she has no choice but to pay for private lessons, saying: "At this rate, it's clear we're not going to get to the end of the syllabus."
Subscribe to our newsletter and get Magharebia's latest articles delivered to your inbox.