Algerian teachers have been forced to prolong their one-week strike started on 8 Nov, after the government threatened to block their industrial action.
Members of EI member organisations, the Syndicat Autonome des Travailleurs de l'Education et de la Formation (SATEF) and the Union Nationale des Travailleurs de l'Education et de la Formation (UNPEF), are on strike together with four other teacher unions in the country to seek a wage review and a retroactive implementation of professional benefits.
Working conditions have been deteriorating in the education sector for some time in Algeria and teacher unions are eager to change the situation. Not only do teachers have to work long hours and suffer from a general lack of teaching tools in the classroom, they are also obliged to teach courses unrelated to their field of specialisation.
Unlike other civil servants, teachers do not have a right to housing and their medical insurance does not cover chronic diseases.
Furthermore, the government has been promoting unfair short-term contracts, some as short as three months, and contract teachers suffer abusive administrative measures, uncertainty and sometimes unpaid salary. There are also cases of teachers whose social security fund somehow just disappeared and the authorities refused to take any action.
Such dire working conditions and terms forced teacher unions to form a strike committee and launch the industrial action earlier in November. More than 500 thousand teachers supported the action. The Ministry of Education attempted to block the strike by claiming it to be illegal. Teacher unions reminded the government that any attempt to block the strike or deny teachers the right of negotiation is a violation of the law.
The unions' requests to the Ministry include:
- Open negotiations with the unions on salary increase, and the scheme regarding end-of-service benefits which should be applied before the end of 2009 and activated retroactively 1 Jan 2008.
- Organise a national seminar on the role of the public school and teachers.
- All contracting teachers shall become regular staff and the contracting option should be limited to fill temporary vacancies only.
- Adopt proper solutions for housing loans and grant an increase on lodging allowances.
- Cancel Decree 158-94 and delegate social services to an independent committee elected by the labour unions.
The unions also condemn the arrest of 60 teachers during a sit-in protest in front of the Presidential Palace and they denounced the physical force used by the riot police on the teachers.
"Decent working conditions and salary and reasonable terms of contract are necessary for teachers to exercise their profession," commented EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. "Any assumption that teachers can do otherwise is a mockery of the education profession. This matter can only be resolved through open dialogue at the negotiation table."