Tue, 18 Apr 2000

More teachers strike for pay rise

JAKARTA (JP): More teachers took to the streets across Indonesia on Monday, forcing some schools to close, as the government came close to approving a hefty increase in their allowances.

The protests on Monday were conducted by teachers from the West Java town of Garut, who came by bus to Jakarta; there were similar, albeit smaller, protests in Semarang and Makassar.

In the West Nusa Tenggara province, some 20,000 teachers began a three-day strike on Monday. They are the second group to participate in the work stoppage, following teachers in Bogor, West Java, who went on a three-day strike last Thursday.

All the protesters carried the same message -- they want salary increases or else they will go on strike, threatening nationwide final examinations due to start next month.

The United Nations for Children and Education Fund (UNICEF) cautioned on Monday that the protests and strikes should not affect the children's right to education.

The teachers strike, if it proceeds, would be in violation of the UN convention on children's rights to obtain education, UNICEF office in Jakarta said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Minister of National Education Yahya Muhaimin announced that he had secured a tentative agreement from the Ministry of Finance to award a 200 percent increase in teachers' allowances instead of the 100 percent already proposed.

There are some 1.7 million teachers on the government payroll.

Yahya held a meeting with Ministry of Finance Director General of Budget Anshari Ritonga, head of the State Administrative and Personnel Agency Sofyan Effendi, and chairman of the Indonesian Teachers Union (PGRI) Muhammad Surya to try to break the impasse.

"The proposal (to increase teachers' allowances) will be brought to the President and the House of Representatives for their approval," Yahya said.

Under the proposal, the functional allowance of a low ranking teacher would be increased to Rp 135,000 a month from Rp 45,000, he said.

"This increase will affect our budget. I don't know how we will cover the cost of the increase," Anshari said.

The meeting also agreed to find a new and realistic formula to improve teachers' welfare, salary and ranking system.

Asked about the teachers' threat to strike, Yahya sidestepped the issue saying that he had no objections to their protests.

"We are ready to accept them (the teachers' protests). They are our guests," he said.

The latest group to bring their protests to Jakarta were some 300 teachers from Garut and Majalengka, West Java, on Monday.

"We will go on strike starting on May 1 if our demands are not met," their spokesman Dadang J said before they were met by House Speaker Akbar Tandjung.

In Semarang, some 150 teachers conducted a rally at the Central Java Legislative Council demanding improvement in teachers' welfare.

"We demand the government give priority to education by allocating 25 percent of its budget," a spokesman said.

In West Nusa Tenggara, almost all schools from kindergartens to senior high schools stopped their activities on Monday as around 20,000 teachers joined in the call for a three day strike, Antara reported from Mataram, the province's capital.

Some of the teachers held a gathering to vent their anger while others distributed flowers to passing motorists to solicit public support.

In Makassar, at least 100 teachers took part in a rally outside the governor's office. Some teachers were involved in a punch-up with police as they tried, unsuccessfully, to force their way to meet with South Sulawesi Governor Z.B. Palaguna.

Several schools were reported to have closed because their teachers were absent and more may close on Tuesday as more protests are planned.

More than 20,863 teachers, representing 300,000 of their colleagues in West Java, plan to take their case to the House of Representatives complex in Jakarta on Tuesday.

The teachers will travel in 404 buses and 25 private cars, mainly from Bandung, Ciamis and Karawang, their spokesman Parta Sutrisna said on Monday.

"Besides the House building, we will also visit the Ministry of National Education and the Directorate General of Budget at the Ministry of Finance," Sutrisna said. (har/jun/27/25)