EI has sent a letter to Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority, urging his government to meet the demands of Palestinian teachers and education workers by fully implementing the 10 per cent salary increase agreed between the government and the General Union of Palestinian Teachers (GUPT) in September.
After holding limited strike actions over the last few weeks to protest the Ministry of Education's failure to comply with this agreement, on 29 November, the GUPT decided to escalate their actions and hold a full strike from 30 November to 3 December.
The teachers’ strike went ahead despite the fact that on Monday, 2 December, the Supreme Court ruled that the strike should be called off for allegedly violating labour laws. This Supreme Court’s decision resulted from a complaint filed by the government to prevent the teachers’ legitimate strike action. The GUPT representatives claim that they were not officially notified about the court decision, but nonetheless they were summoned to the Court for an investigation on 4 December.
Issues with implementation
Problems arose in the implementation of the agreement which includes a 10 per cent increase in teachers' salaries to be implemented in two stages, the first at the start of 2014.
Administrative staff wanted to be included in the salary increase, but the government refused to include school administrations.
Another issue has to do with a delay in the issuing of a presidential decree approving the pay increase for teachers. Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s government has not requested a decree, while President Abbas generally prefers to issue a decree only on receipt of a written recommendation from the government.
A third problem is the cost of living: teachers are demanding a cost of living increase of 2.7 per cent, while the Palestinian government has provided teachers with only a 0.075 per cent increase.
Social dialogue without governmental pressure
EI condemned the attempts by the Palestinian authorities to prevent the teachers’ union from exercising its legitimate rights to carry out industrial action. “Palestinian trade unions should be allowed to play their role in a climate free from violence, pressure, or harassment of any kind. EI urges the Palestinian government to engage in an open and constructive dialogue with GUPT in order to solve the current dispute,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen.