A widespread strike in the education sector in Algeria has entered its fourth week, despite an intervention by the Prime Minister to bring it to an end. The strike, which started on 25 January, has involved members of the National Union of Education and Training Staff (UNPEF) and the National Union of Secondary and Technical Education Teachers (SNAPEST), both affiliated to EI, as well as the Autonomous National Council of Secondary and Technical Education Teachers (CNAPEST).
On 17 February, the UNPEF National Council decided to end its strike and called teachers and education workers to return to their schools as of 18 February. SNAPEST and CNAPEST are still on strike pending the outcome of further ongoing negotiations.
The open-ended general strike action was organised to press the government to meet long-neglected demands by education workers and teachers. Education sector employees across Algeria’s 48 districts went out on strike, with a participation rate of 65 per cent nationally, according to CNAPEST, ranging between 40 per cent and 90 per cent in different locations. This is in stark contrast to the Ministry of National Education’s claims that just 9.3 per cent of education workers and teachers participated in the strike, especially in Algiers.
No end in sight
The unions had announced that the strike was to continue as long as the Minister of Education ignored the teachers’ legitimate and overdue demands and until they received a finalised joint draft agreement that included all the demands dropped from the initial record.
The unions stressed the importance of the 13 demands which had been dropped from the joint report signed by the employees of public service and the Ministry of Education. These focus mainly on settling the status of basic education teachers, promoting primary school teachers who have completed their training in 2012, valuing teachers’ professional expertise and allocating them pedagogical grants, and stopping external recruitment.
On 13 February, the Minister of Education held a meeting to find solutions urgently to the crisis as only five weeks of studies are left before the spring holidays.
The Ministry and the unions failed to reach an agreement to end the strike which had entered its fourth week. Accordingly, the Ministry may cancel the spring holiday to catch up with missed classes and extend the school year until the end of May 2014.
Regarding the missed classes, the Minister of Education asserted that he will be forced to postpone the three official exams: certificate of the end of primary school, middle school certificate, and baccalaureate. This step is provoking students’ and parents’ leaders to oppose the appointment of new teachers to replace the dismissed ones.
Threat of dismissal
The Ministry then highlighted the fact that the strike staged by primary and secondary school teachers, and called for by unions, was declared illegal by the judicial authorities in a ruling issued earlier last week. He has threatened to dismiss all teachers on strike in accordance with the laws and regulations.
However, the strike is continuing and unions concerned have toughened their position in reaction to what they called the unyielding and irresponsible attitude of the authorities.
EI: social dialogue necessary
EI supports its Algerian colleagues in their struggle for better salaries and higher status for teachers, declared EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “We also call on the national public authorities to enter into meaningful negotiations, respecting the principles of social dialogue, with the organisations representing teachers. It is an indispensable condition for achieving quality education for all throughout the country.”