Mon, 17 Apr 2000

Thousands of teachers gear up for nationwide strike over pay hike

JAKARTA (JP): Thousands of teachers across the country began the countdown for a nationwide strike starting on Monday to demand a significant increase in their salaries.

In Makassar, South Sulawesi, thousands of teachers from eight regencies in the South Sulawesi capital threatened on Saturday to go strike on Monday if the government failed to give serious attention to their demands.

Muliono, the spokesman for Forum For Teachers' Care, said that between 2,000 and 3,000 teachers from Takalar, Jeneponto, Bulukumba, Gowa, Wajo, Pinrang, Barru and Makassar regencies had agreed to go strike on Monday.

"The teachers will also march to the local legislative council building and to the Ministry of National Education office if the government ignores teachers' demands," Muliono said.

Besides higher salaries, the teachers are also demanding more control of educational funds, he said. "We hope the teachers' action will run smoothly and those (decisionmakers) in Jakarta will hear our voice here."

In West Nusa Tenggara, at least 30,000 teachers in the province have been called on to join a three-day strike starting on Monday.

The local chapter of the Indonesian Teachers Association announced the planned strike through the mass media and also placed announcements in schools, Antara news agency reported.

"We were asked to return to school on Thursday because our teachers will go on strike," a junior high school student said in Ampenan.

The nationwide strike planned for Monday was preceded by action in some areas of the country. Some 7,000 teachers in Bogor, West Java, for example, have been on strike since last Thursday.

Teachers in Bandarlampung, Lampung, however, decided not to join the general strike on Monday, saying they would wait for the government to make a decision on their demands.

"We have received signals that our demands will be met by the government. We will see in the coming days," Murni Sulaiman, the chairman of the Teachers Dignity Forum, said on Saturday.

Sulaiman said the teachers had earlier held several rallies demanding a 100-percent increase in their salaries. (27/sur/jun)