Saturday, April 16, 2016

Russian Teachers Win!

By Stephen Wilson

Finally Russian teachers can boast of strike win to pay salaries!

(Moscow, Russia) -- Wage arrears are paid to Russian teachers in two rural schools.

              After waging a relentless campaign involving letters, petitions and threatening strikes, the local Ministry of Education and Science of the Volgogradskoi region paid the debts owed to teachers at two schools in the town of Oktyabrski. The two schools had not received their salaries for two months exhausting the patience of teachers.

              The teachers had sent an indignant letter threatening to embark on a strike should their salaries not be paid. The teachers explained that:

             'On the 30th of March, the collective of teachers and workers sent a declaration to the procurator's on the 29th of March, stating that if we were not informed, orally, what their answer iswe will inform the school headmasters of schools about the suspension of work from the 4th of April until we are paid.'

              The local government agreed to pay the teachers. The teachers and supporters beamed at their victory. Dmitr
Savelov of claimed that 90,000 who signed a petition in support of the teachers must have helped them. It certainly indicates that many people care and want to show their active support for teachers.

              The predicament of the teachers was generated by
local officials informing the teachers that they could not pay the teachers because they needed to pay for gas.

              A representaive of the teachers had retorted: ' Gas, this is good, but we don't want it to be paid out of our own poor pockets. What can we do now if we are left with only 300 rubles?' They went on to state: 'Fifteen or twenty years
ago teachers were not paid for months. Somebody may say,
we need to put up with it and that officials are also people. But we don't understand why we must sit without money for the mistakes of those who don't have problems with their salaries. 

              Pay the teachers from the village of Oktyabrski their owed salaries! Don't let it come to cancelling lessons, acts of protest and going to court.'

              The plight of those teachers is hardly an isolated case. The number of teacher protests, petitions and strikes has been rising as threatened redundancies, wage arrears and austerity is being forced by a government which can no longer balance the books. Whereas in the 1990's, teachers
would endure arrears for over three months, at present the limits of patience amounts to two or three months. Peter Biziukov an expert at the centre of Social and Labour Rights who has properly researched changing trends in industrial strife notes: 'The movement is changing form. In the past,
the protests were very isolated. But last year we recorded a number of inter-regional actions. The most notable such action was the protests of long-distance haulers. According to our data, 45 regions were hit by it. In May 2015, there were the teachers' strikes in 20 regions ... whereas before
they were involved at most in 9 regions. Now, the number of simulatenously protesting regions is growing.'

              Despite some victories, the future perspectives of Russian teachers looks daunting. The Ministry of Finance anticipates real wages to fall by 13% this year and won't recover to the level of 2014 until the year 2025.

              A recent claim by the Ministry of Education that the average salary of a Moscow school teacher has risen to 100,000 rubles a month, or according to Interfax, rose to 74,000 from 39,000 in 2010 seems absurd. The doubling of many food items and utility bills makes a mockery of those empty boasts.

              Although the prestige and popularity of teaching at schools has undoubtedly risen, (practically all the vacancies for teachers at schools in Moscow are occupied and young teachers can't get jobs there or must wait), job security, salaries and decent conditions remain fragile. We can anticipate more protests, petitions and strikes throughout Russia in the coming years.

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