Friday, October 30, 2020

University staff announce strikes in West Bank, Gaza due to budget restrictions

By Amy Mac - September 30, 2015
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Education] [economy] [Birzeit University] [Palestinian Authority]

Palestinian university staff have announced they will go on strike for six days after the Palestinian Ministry of Education failed to meet university employees’ demands for better working conditions.


“The problem is about budget and financial support for universities,” Dr. Salem Tdhawaba, Head of the Union at Birzeit University, told the Palestine Monitor.


The Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) released a statement yesterday saying that the strike would take place across all Palestinian universities Sept. 30, Oct. 5-6, and Oct. 12-14.


“In 2008 there was an agreement for a package of salaries for the workers at the universities that would be valid for 5 years. It expired in 2013 but the package has remained the same,” said Tdhawaba.   


Despite two years of ongoing negotiations regarding government increased funding for public universities, there has been little change in the financial support offered to the PFUUPE by the Palestinian Ministry of Education.


“We always face the same answer, which are the budget limitations of the authority,” said Tdhawaba.


Following the announcement of the strike, the federation called on the the Ministry of Education to meet their demands to increase wages, provide health insurance for retired university staff and exempt employees' children from tuition fees.


Currently, the average salary for university professors is between $2000-$3000 per month, although this varies depending on degree and profession.


According to Tdhawaba, this is not an adequate living wage.


“The workers at the universities are asking to look at the rates and the salaries because of the cost of living and the cost of living every year is raising and there are more expenditures for families,” said Tdhawaba.


“We suggested raising the salaries by 40 percent, but this is negotiable,” he added.  


Tdhawaba emphasised the necessity of  international support and donations to the Palestinian Authority, the instability of which has financially disrupted the  Palestinian higher education system, amongst other public sectors.


“The financial situation of the Palestinian Authority mainly depends on international donations. And the donations, because they are unstable, affect the stability of services offered for the citizens. One of the factors is education and higher education.”


"We ask the international community to look at the higher education in Palestine and try to support this sector,” said Tdhwaba.  


The decision to go on strike was made at Palestine Technical College in Tulkarem in the presence of the heads of the university staff unions of an-Najah University, Hebron University, Al-Quds Open University, Birzeit University, Bethlehem University, Al-Quds University Abu Dis, Palestine Polytechnic University, the Islamic University in Gaza, the American University in Jenin and al-Aqsa University in Gaza.


Dr. Anwar Zakarya, Assistant Deputy for the Ministry of Higher Education, told the Palestine Monitor the the ministry yesterday agreed to transfer 16 million NIS to all public universities.


He indicated this was only one area that had been agreed upon, adding, “we will continue to talk to representatives of the union today or tomorrow and we hope to find a solution.”


Tdhwaba is eager for negotiations to continue as a means of ensuring increased financial support for higher education, which he sees as essential to the growth of the Palestinian economy.  


“As you know, we don’t have natural resources. What we have is human resources, and education is needed for the Palestinians.”




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