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Pakistan: Striking teachers win negotiations for better conditions

More than 7,000 Pakistani teachers have called off their indefinite strike after the Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, issued a special directive in relation to upgrading teachers’ conditions bringing uniformity to pay scales within the education system.

A shared mechanism for implementation of the package was agreed in a meeting between representatives of Pakistani Federal Government Teachers’ Association (PFGTA) and officials from the Federal Directorate of Education and the Ministry of Education. Teachers had previously given a deadline of 20 days to the government to implement the package, which included: promised salary increases to be paid; the same service structure for all teachers; and a consistent approach to high quality education for all students. FGTA President, Azhar Mahmood, said: “We are pleased to announce that our voices have finally been heard. We are hopeful that measures will be implemented to the letter and spirit, otherwise we will again boycott classes.” Mahmood added: “There must be a unified system of education because teachers working in the federal government model schools, which are for grade 1 to 12 students, have been working from grade 9 to 16 for almost two decades and are hardly considered for promotion to the next grade.” Mahmood acknowledged that the “protest and boycotting classes would harm the future of children, but this concerns our own children who are suffering from the non-implementation of this package and from our meagre salaries.” Students had joined the protest, asking what the government was expecting from the new generation if teachers took to the streets for their rights. The students said they were ready to join their teachers for as long as authorities did not fulfil their demands. EI has welcomed the Government of Pakistan’s decision to return to the table and engage with teachers because it shows that dialogue and negotiation between teachers’ unions and competent national authorities can help to avoid confrontation. However, EI has condemned reports that police baton charged unarmed teachers who were peacefully protesting in Karachi, and supports the FGTA’s call for teachers who were sacked by the FDE last year to be reinstated.

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