Palestinian teachers back to work after Abbas intervenes

Educators thank PA president, who pledges a 10% pay raise and other benefits, ending a month-long standoff

Palestinian children attend the first day of school in the West bank city of Ramallah. September 4, 2011 (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Palestinian children attend the first day of school in the West bank city of Ramallah. September 4, 2011 (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Public school teachers in the West Bank were back at work Sunday morning after an intervention by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ended an almost month-long strike that has shuttered dozens of schools in the Palestinian territory.

Despite not all of their demands being met, the teachers union agreed to resume work on a temporary basis after Abbas pledged to improve working conditions in a televised speech on Saturday, Reuters reported.

“With pain squeezing our hearts, we can only thank President Mahmoud Abbas… he came up with some new offers, even though they have not fulfilled all our needs and demands,” the union said in a statement quoted in the report.

Flanked by PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, Abbas promised a 10 percent pay raise, a management review and the implementation of a 2013 work agreement, in his previously unscheduled Saturday address.

The average monthly salary for a teacher is $600. A school principal with a master’s degree and 25 years of service can earn $700.

Abbas’s West Bank-based PA has been pleading with teachers to return to class, warning that pupils otherwise risk a “lost year.”

Most of the promises given by Abbas on Saturday are only to take effect from September 2017.

The PA, which spends nearly half of its budget on wages for its 180,000 civil servants, has been in chronic economic crisis for years.

The monthly wage bill of nearly $150 million is 16 percent of the Palestinian gross domestic product, one of the highest in the world.

The PA was supposed to have been an interim body and be replaced in 1999 by a sovereign state of Palestine but a peace treaty with Israel has proved elusive and foreign aid to the administration has halved over the past five years.

Of the 45,000 teachers in Palestinian schools, nearly 36,000 are in the West Bank.

In the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, where close to 75 percent of residents are considered refugees, the United Nations runs most schools.

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