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Date: Tue, 29 Apr 1997 12:32:32 +0300
From: "asafadiv" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Teachers' Strike upsate
Here is an update on the Teachers' Strike. We appreciate Labournet effective response.
WAC - Workers' Advice Center
Jaffa 972-3-6839145 Fax 972-3-6839148
E mail email@example.com
The 30 arrested Union leaders, the leaders of the teachers' strike were released (the night 25-26.4) following the massive solidarity campaign with their just struggle. Most detainees were members of the Higher Coordinating Committee of the Teachers in the Homeland' Schools (HCCT). Following the release of the strike leaders the HCCT announced a new initiative and decided to call upon the teachers to go back to work starting from April 27th.
Prior to the release of the HCCT unionists the PA started a campaign in the media in order to break the unity of the teachers and to isolate the HCCT. While the strike leaders were still in prison a major operation of misinformation took place by the official local media in an attempt to give the impression that the strike was over. Police surrounded several schools in an effort to intimidate the teachers. All this proved useless in front of the teachers resolve to go on with their fight. The teachers were able in a short notice to form an alternative strike leadership and remained united behind the leadership of the HCCT defying the attempt of the PA to discredit it. This courageous stand of the teachers drew them wide spread support.
A rally of thousands of teachers and supporters in Ramallah (24.4) in front of the Legislative Council proved the isolation of the PA in front of wide solidarity with the Teachers' strike. Bir Zeit University students Council, High schools' Students, NGOs and oppositions parties all stood up to PA repression. The Legislative Council (with a majority of Arafat's "Fatah" Faction)) issued a statement opposing the use of undemocratic steps against the teachers.
In Friday (25.4) the PA Council weekly meeting discussed for 4 hours the teachers' strike which has become a major nation issue. The result was the release of the detained teachers, a step that was considered as an important victory of the teachers. Moreover the retreat of the PA was an important gain in the test of strength between the democratic and Union movement at large and the PA. This struggle had also legislative aspects as the right of public sector workers to strike is forbidden according to Jordanian Law still prevailed in the PA areas. The demand of the teachers to recognize their democratic right to strike was an issue in itself in this struggle and the release of the teachers proved this right to be stronger.
On April 26.4 the HCCT held a meeting in Nablus and issued a statement to all teachers and public opinion. The statement emphasized the dangerous nature of the military steps that took place (arrests, seizure of schools by the police) and said that these measures were met with strong condemnation by all official and public bodies. "These steps contradict the sacred character of the educational process and blow to the dignity of the teachers, being the vanguard of the struggling forces in the Palestinian society which should be built on the ground of respecting democratic freedoms - the first stone in the building of a Democratic Civil Society."
The statement of the HCCT included also a 7 point initiative to solve the crisis:
1. Suspension of the strike until further notice to allow the responsible bodies the opportunity to respond to the teachers demands.
2. Formation of a follow up committee (of representatives of the PA and the teachers) with the HCCT as a major party in it.
3. The PA will initiate a significant wage rise for the teachers.
4. The announcement on the illegality of any kind of military and security intervention in the education system. The right of protest and strike of the teachers is legitimate one.
5. The follow up committee will put forward a time schedule for the implementation of the teachers' demands.
6. The Palestinian Leadership will speed up the process of legislation of the Civil Service Regulations and the Wage Scale for Civil Servants.
7. The HCCT will be considered as the representative Trade Union body temporarily until the formation of the Federation of Trade Unions of Teachers in Governmental Schools.
It is worth mentioning that the struggle of the teachers is the first social challenge that the PA faces since its erection in 1994. Bilal AlHasan, a leading Palestinian commentator wrote (ALSharq AlAwsat 29.4.97)
"This is the first strike of its kind to happen under the PA rule. The strike is considered in any country as legitimate step however the PA media portrayed it as opposed to the Law. The General Federation of Teachers that supports the PA was completely bypassed in the struggle and proved to be meaningless. The strike also discovered a serious illness of the PA as it used the Security Forces to fire and detain the teachers and threaten them. This is why the PA got strong criticism from all sides including from inside the PA institutions."
WAC calls upon Unionists and supporters of Palestinian rights to go on with the Faxes Campaign in support of the teachers' demands.
Send Faxes to:
PA President Yasser Arafat 972-7-822365-6
Education Min. Yasser Amru 972-2-9985559
HCCT spokesperson: Mr. Taha Nassar Tel: 972-2-9925277
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