Palestinian public school teachers to end strike after agreement reached with PA
The Palestinian education ministry announced on Tuesday that the academic year for Palestinian public schools, originally to end in the first week of June, will be extended one week, in order to compensate for the loss in class time due to the month-long general strike by public school teachers.
The decision came after news circulated last Thursday about an agreement being reached between representatives of the Independent Teachers' Movement, a non-official assembly of teachers running the strike, and the Palestinian government, at a meeting in Hebron on Wednesday.
According to Palestinian media, the meeting was also attended by the official Palestine Teachers' Union and figures of civil society.
Although the agreement has not been officially announced by the teachers' movement, Palestinian PM Mohammad Shtayyeh revealed part of its content on Thursday, especially concerning the "democratisation of the Teachers' Union".
بعد أكثر من شهرين ونصف الشهر على الإضراب الجزئي للمعلمين في المدارس الرسمية الفلسطينية، وافقت الحكومة على مبادرة لمؤسسات حقوقية وتربوية لانتظام الدوام المدرسي عبر الاستجابة لجزء كبير من مطالب المعلمين#نكمن_في_التفاصيل— Independent عربية (@IndyArabia) May 20, 2022
"This means that there should be free elections in the official Palestine Teachers' Union, so it becomes representative of all teachers," a local organizer of the teachers' strike in Ramallah, who asked not to be named, told The New Arab.
"This doesn't substitute our demand to be allowed to form an independent union, not affiliated to the government, which was also included in the agreement," she added.
The official Palestine Teachers' Union is a PLO-affiliated organization that has represented all Palestinian teachers for decades.
In 2016, the union reached an agreement with the government during a month-long strike. The agreement was refused by the strike leaders, who accused the union of not standing on their side. Since then, the teachers' movement has demanded the right to form an independent union.
In 2016, teachers declared a strike to protest unjust distribution of PA salaries and to revive the unionist struggle for rights. They called for higher pay for teachers as they constitute a vital segment in Palestinian society.— Al-Shabaka الشبكة (@AlShabaka) March 27, 2021
The PA was not happy. https://t.co/b2Lw1gN2gi
"In addition, the agreement included the rise of the 'work nature' allowance to 70 to 80 per cent of the basic salary, which would improve our retirement conditions as well," pointed out the organizer. "In addition, there will be a 15% rise to our salaries, 10% to be paid at the beginning of 2023 and 5% at the beginning of 2024."
The 15% rise was part of a previous agreement reached between the Palestinian government and the Palestine Teachers' Union in early April, after a first three-week strike called by the Palestine Teachers' Union. Thousands of teachers refused the agreement and called for the current strike.
"Some issues were not addressed by the agreement," the organizer noted. "For instance, our rights as female teachers to equal conditions with men."
"We demand to have the same rise as men based on the number of children," she said, "We should be able to get it without having to go through complicated bureaucratic procedures to prove that we provide for our families, as it is currently the case."
"We didn't achieve it this time," she added.
The agreement was presented as an initiative by a group of civil society figures, who are guarantors of the agreement as a third party.
"This was the largest teachers’ strike in Palestinian history, and yet it was not organized by their union, the General Union of Palestinian Teachers (GUPT). It was organized despite it." @maimoghli and I interviewed one of its organisers for @meriponline: https://t.co/hXVM1Cl0uJ— Mezna Qato (@meznaqato) June 6, 2018
"The Prime Minister announced that the government accepts the agreement, and that should be enough," Omar Assaf, a member of the civil society committee who was present at the agreement meeting, told The New Arab.
"However, teachers insisted that there must be a formal signature, which will take place between the government and the official union next Monday after the Prime Minister returns to the country," he stressed.
Although many teachers returned to work, the strike officially continues until the agreement is signed, according to organizers.
The teachers' strike is the largest mass strike by a social movement in the West Bank since the general strike of 2016, also staged by public school teachers.