TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – More than 50,000 primary and high school teachers walked off the job on Wednesday, a day before the government announced its ‘wellbeing’ budget, calling for higher pay and shorter hours in the country’s largest ever education strike.
Since a Labour coalition government took power in late 2017, teachers have held three strikes calling for pay rises, better working conditions and more respect for their profession, the Guardian reported.
But Wednesday’s one-day strike is the first time primary and high school teachers have united in action, dubbing Wednesday’s protest a “mega-strike”.
The protesters have so far turned down three pay rise offers from the government of 3%, and say they want 15% or more to continue their work. But the government says it has no more money to give.
More than 700,000 children have been affected by the strike, with many parents forced to take time off work, or take children to work with them. Some local recreation spaces such as libraries and swimming pools were running programmes for children while others were joining their parents in the protests.
The Labour coalition government has been forced to recruit teachers from the UK and Australia to stem the shortfall. But many classrooms were still short of teachers, with principals forced to take over classrooms, or schools begging retired teachers to come back.
Education minister Chris Hipkins warned teachers to expect “disappointment” as the government had already offered the highest pay rise possible.
The opposition National party said the strike was causing disruption to parents and careers nationwide as many city streets were closed by the strikers. The action would unfairly hit low-income families who could not afford child care, said Nikki Kaye, National’s spokeswoman on education issues.
“National supports shifting the bargaining parameters around teacher’s pay and workload, and we’ve called on the prime minister and minister of finance to intervene,” said Kaye. “We do not believe this will be resolved by the government sticking its head in the sand.”