Palestinian teachers suspend three-week strike

AFP , Sunday 13 Mar 2016

Teachers at public schools in the West Bank were back at work on Sunday after suspending a three-week strike that challenged the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority.

An education ministry spokesman told AFP that "100 percent of classes have resumed" after teachers agreed to return to work following a pledge from Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to improve conditions.

Facing mounting pressure from teachers and parents, Abbas on Saturday promised teachers a 10 percent pay rise, a management review and the implementation of a 2013 work agreement.

"The strike was suspended in response to the appeal of president Mahmud Abbas," one of the strike organisers told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that teachers were ready to go back on strike if the authorities do not meet their commitments.

Abbas's promised changes will only take effect from September but he asked them to return to work this Sunday, the first day of the Palestinian working week.

There were large demonstrations in support of the teachers, who say they are underpaid in comparison with other government employees.

The PA, which spends nearly half of its budget on wages for its 180,000 civil servants, is facing a chronic economic crisis.

The monthly wage bill of nearly $150 million is 16 percent of Gross Domestic Product, one of the highest ratios 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 proven elusive and foreign aid to the administration has halved over the past five years.

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