About theteacherslens

Teacher, human rights activist, spiritual wayfarer

Palestinian Teacher Strike- Update

Palestinians teachers are back in the classroom after being on strike due to their profound sense of loyalty to their students. They had a tiny victory, if one wants to see the glass half full.

Teachers will receive a 5% increase in salary in early 2017, with an additional 5% in early 2018. Until then, they teach and wait and organize.

5% could mean a lot of money to some whose salary is already high, but to the average Palestinian teacher, 5% means roughly 90 shekels or $23 USD. It’s not significant though every shekel counts.

Teachers had the support of their president who said they should receive a better salary, however, they also had to submit and return to the classroom due to fears of retaliation in an already oppressed system.

As of now, teachers are working in solidarity together to create a new union and change the laws of union elections.

One teacher from Hebron says, “Until then, we will be helpless and we will always feel misjudged.” A feeling teachers around the world echo today.

 

 

Palestinian Teachers Strike Against the Palestinian Teachers’ Union and Palestinian Authority

A Brief History – 2013

In 2013, the primary and secondary Palestinian Teachers’ Union went on strike after demands for a salary increase were repeatedly not met. The Palestinian Authority (PA) and Teachers’ Union originally reached an agreement that would give teachers a 10% salary raise. However, the agreement was not honored. The Teachers’ Union then renegotiated down to a 5% increase, without the teachers support. The teachers kept hearing promises of receiving the pay increase, but it never came.

Fast Forward – 2016

On February 10, 2016, teachers began once again to speak out against the unjust salary and lack of union leadership. They made note of how other professions have recently and successfully negotiated salary increases including the doctors union who won a 90% increase in pay. The engineers union also successfully negotiated a 60% increase in their salaries. The university teachers union also was able to negotiate a substantial increase in their salaries.

Teachers are now demanding that their union put pressure on the PA to renegotiate a salary increase that they rightly deserve. The Teachers’ Union leadership has failed to negotiate a fair agreement by walking away with a mere 1.5% salary increase.

Teachers have declined this agreement and declared a strike. Roughly 20,000 teachers and supportive community members gathered in Ramallah to protest. However, no one would agree to speak with them, including the media. The protest resulted in 22 teachers being arrested by the PA. They have since been released.

With the resilience that is characteristic of all Palestinians, the teachers have declared the strike to last for an undetermined time period. They will march and protest until their voices are heard and their demands met.

Demands

Currently, the teachers are calling for the appointed (not elected) union leadership, to be fired and a new democratic election be held. The current leadership does not endorse the current strike.

Teachers also demand the salary raise they deserve and a stable retirement system equal to that of the engineers and doctors.

The current leader of the union is not an educator, however most of the union leaders are, or once were, teachers. They now have an additional stake at hand – they can be forced back into the classrooms if they are forced out of Teachers’ Union leadership roles.

Marching Forward

 On February 24th, at least 20,000 teachers protested once again in Ramallah in front of the PA buildings.

One teacher from Hebron, who preferred to remain anonymous, stated, “Today was so strange. There were seven PA checkpoints on our way to Ramallah. They stopped us.”

The teacher and his coworkers were eventually allowed to pass through and made their way to the protest.

Other teachers were not so lucky, being turned away and told to return to their homes.

“The PA wrote some traffic tickets for some teachers, too. It was a long and hard day.”

They also stated that, “No one from the government talked to us.”

Teachers are concerned about how this will affect their students. There is talk of extending the semester depending on how long the strike lasts. The teachers resolve to continue protesting until their demands are met.

Educators Under Attack

 The situation in Palestine is unfortunately not unique. There have been similar situations in the U.S. recently where teachers have had enough with low salary wages, cut backs in funding and resources, and a lack of professional respect and strong union leadership.

In Chicago, IL, the Chicago Teachers’ Union leadership was challenged in 2010, resulting in a new leadership team. CTU has also been on strike at least two times in a similar time period as the Palestine Teachers’ Union.

In Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Union has come under fire for lack of leadership and was currently challenged by a less than 2-years old grassroots caucus, Caucus of Working Educators (WE), made up of PFT teachers. WE recently lost their first election challenge, but have forced the current leadership to recognize that change is necessary in the way they lead the rank and file members. Currently, PFT teachers are stripped of their right to strike due to a state law which threatens their teacher certifications.

Both CTU and PFT are under the American Federation of Teachers’ Union (AFT). AFT has publicly supported Hillary Clinton’s bid for the Democratic Party’s Presidential candidate nomination despite a lack of member support which has caused a rift between rank and file members.

It appears that teachers around the world are under attack from all sides. Teacher solidarity is needed worldwide.

I stand in solidarity with the Palestinian teachers.

 

References:

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/en/originals/2013/12/teachers-union-strike-palestine-west-bank.html#

https://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=770348

http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/07/13/teachers-say-no-freaking-way-aft-endorsement-hillary-clinton

Cutting Substitutes Pay For an Alleged Substitute Teacher Shortage?

As of July 1, 2015, approximately 1,000 substitute teachers with the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) were no longer employed by the SDP due to a contract breach with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) union and the outsourcing of substitute teachers to Camden, NJ based Source4Teachers. The PFT filed a Charge of Unfair Labor Practices on June 19, 2015, but no further details have been provided. This isn’t a unique situation to public schools. In fact, it is becoming a national trend; the status quo in the ongoing corporatization assault on public education, teachers and unions.

The SDP claims that a low job fulfillment rate of 55 to 65 percent with substitute teachers as union member employees of the SDP is the catalyst in the outsourcing. Source4Teachers claims it will provide an incredible 90 percent fulfillment rate by 2016 per their $34 million dollar two-year contract. However, their plan on how to do this also has not been disclosed. The contract also has not been made public. Transparency is apparently not a priority.

As a now former SDP substitute teacher, I question why more research was not done to figure out why the fulfillment rates were so low. SDP used the AESOP system developed by the Media, PA based company Frontline Technologies, to assign substitute teachers jobs. Appointed teachers enter their absence into the AESOP system either by phone or online. Those jobs then appear available for subs by their selected regional area, most often closest to their homes, as well as by their area of certification. However, it seemed that not all corresponding jobs would show up all the time.

For example, I could log on to AESOP on both my computer and my iPhone simultaneously. Each provided two different sets of available positions, with very little to no overlap. If I refreshed the computer screen, I would see a change in a few jobs, but still no match to the iPhone. If I logged off of the computer, then logged back on, I would see no available jobs just minutes later, but still see a plethora of open jobs on my iPhone including regions outside of my assigned region and sometimes positions outside of my areas of certification. If I refreshed the screen again, I would see all the previous jobs that had once disappeared. I could also use the same computer with two different web browsers and be provided different sets of open jobs. Often times, one of my areas of certification would never show up. I called the SDP a few times and was told it was a glitch that was being worked on. Glitch? Or blatant sabotage of the system in order to further the agenda of corporate education reformers to outsource? I suspect the latter.

Interestingly, Source4Teachers also uses AESOP. Will they encounter the same issues? Or will these issues miraculously be fixed? As a side note, Kelly Educational Services also uses AESOP. I’ve also worked for them and encountered no such issue. Their jobs appeared the same on all devices at all times I was logged into the system.

If inconsistent job availability isn’t enough to get you to stand in solidarity with substitute teachers and the children of Philadelphia, then how about the roughly 43 percent pay cut they will endure from the $160.10 per day once paid to certified teachers by the SDP to a mere $90 per day by Source4Teachers. Of course, the rate is set by the school district so this indicates that Source4Teachers is taking a large percentage of that pay out of the teachers’ pockets. Will highly qualified, certified and experienced teachers rush to SDP schools to teach for roughly $12 per hour?

I suspect that part of Source4Teachers overall plan includes hiring uncertified teachers. They recently posted a job search for the SDP specifically on indeed.com. The ad states, “If you are not a Pennsylvania certified teacher, you are still eligible to become a substitute if you have your bachelor’s degree. Your Source4Teachers recruiter will help you secure an emergency permit which will qualify you to substitute for one year. You will also be qualified to work as a special education substitute teacher at the non-certified pay rate.” Special education teachers work with a very specific group of students who have been identified with special academic, emotional and behavioral needs. They are educated and certified to specialize with these students, and yet, Source4Teachers is making a mockery of them.

This leaves the SDP with uncertified, unqualified teachers teaching the children of Philadelphia. It also leaves highly qualified and experienced teachers underpaid. It forces a division in the union and among teachers and the communities they serve. All part of the corporate education reformers’ plans to privatize the public school system and further oppress disenfranchised citizens.

In order to effectively serve the children of Philadelphia, I call for the SDP, PFT and who ever else has a little bit of power left, to investigate such practices mentioned above. I also call for the PFT to give us updates on the Charge of Unfair Labor Practices filed on June 19, 2015. Additionally, I demand that we, the public tax payers of Philadelphia, be given complete details of the Source4Teachers contract along with a detailed plan of how they expect to fulfill 90 percent of the jobs.

If you care about Philadelphia’s children, then you’ll join me in this call for action.