Palestinian teachers call PA financial crisis 'made up', vow to continue strike
Palestinian teachers' independent movement, the unofficial body leading a general strike by Palestinian public teachers ongoing since early February, called the Palestinian Authority's financial crisis "made up" during a press statement on Wednesday.
The movement declared that the teachers' strike will continue until all demands are met, despite receiving full salaries for March for the first time in more than a year.
On Wednesday, the PA announced the payment of full salaries for all Palestinian public servants for the first time in 16 months. Public servants, including teachers, had been receiving incomplete salaries, allegedly due to the PA's ongoing financial crisis, which was described as "the worst in the PA's history".
However, the teachers' movement considered that teachers have not received their full salaries."We cannot accept the registry of full salary payment on our salary slips when we have been only receiving 80% of our salaries for months, which means one of two things," said the teachers' movement statement.
"Either the financial crisis is a made-up, and its continuation is a dirty game, or the government considers that we have received our salaries complete and wants to establish it by writing, which will give the government the chance to fix our salaries at 80%," the statement added.
The statement also announced that the teachers' strike will continue until all demands are met, including the payment of a 15% raise, that was agreed upon with the government following a two-month strike last year, as well as the authorisation of an independent teachers' union free of political influence on its membership.
Last week, the Teachers' Independent Movement rejected an initiative to solve the crisis put forward by Fatah's "Revolutionary Council", the general assembly of the Palestinian faction whose leadership runs the PA.
The initiative proposed the payment of the 15% raise in instalments and a discussion over reforming the PA-linked teachers' union to allow free elections for its leadership. The initiative also proposed withdrawing all punitive actions against striking teachers, mainly salary deductions.
In this regard, the Teachers' Independent Movement said in a statement that the initiative needed to be amended to meet the strike's demands, including the immediate payment of the 15% rise and the authorisation of a new, independent union for teachers.
Palestinian public schools in the occupied West Bank have been closed since Feb. 5 in one of the longest-ever teachers’ strikes against the Palestinian Authority. Teachers’ demands for a pay raise -- and a union -- have vexed the PA which hasn't budged. https://t.co/4jS3WmRP5b— AP Middle East (@APMiddleEast) March 29, 2023
"Some members of the revolutionary council told us that they knew nothing about the initiative, which makes us wonder who is really behind the initiative," said a source in the Teachers' Independent Movement, who asked not to be named, to The New Arab. "It seems to us that the government is trying to persuade us into ending the strike via third parties."
"As for the withdrawal of punitive actions, it cannot be considered a price for ending the strike, because these actions are wrong in the first place, to end them is a correction of that wrongdoing and not a demand of the strike," the source added.
On Tuesday, the Palestinian education minister, Marwan Awartani, said to the PA's Palestine TV that he thought that the strike is "illegal", arguing that Palestinian public teachers receive higher wages than all public servants except for health sector workers.
Several teachers spoke to TNA at the protest, stating that their average salaries ranged between 2000 and 3800 shekels (600-1200 USD), affirming that most of them have second jobs as technicians or taxi drivers. Thousands of teachers from across the occupied West Bank marched in Ramallah again in early March.
Awartani also said that the "education process is a joint responsibility of the whole of society," pointing out that Palestinian students "are beginning to show a drawback in their academic performance, which is very dangerous".
"We, teachers, are the ones in direct contact with students, all of whom are children and teenagers, including our own children," the source in the Teachers' Independent Movement told TNA.
"We, more than anyone, feel the damage done to education, but this damage began when education was neglected, including teachers' rights," said the source.
"We are on strike precisely to fix that," they added.