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#825: Haiti's government suspends striking teachers (fwd)


Haiti's government suspends striking teachers                        
07:57 p.m Oct 29, 1999 Eastern 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Haiti's government suspended without
pay teachers and school officials involved in  a 25-day-old strike for
higher pay and better insurance  coverage, teachers and government
officials said on Friday.  Raynand Pierre, secretary-general of the
National  Confederation of Educators in Haiti (CNEH), said the teachers
were striking because the government had not kept up its side of
contract agreements reached in 1997 and 1999, which included a 32
percent pay increase.  Pierre said 60 percent of the union's members, or
about 4,000 teachers, were staying away from work. The impoverished
Caribbean nation's Education Ministry says it cannot fund the 32 percent
pay increase for teachers. Pierre said the union intended to continue
the strike and sue the Haitian government. The Education Ministry said
it respected the teachers' right to strike.   The suspension affects
``school inspectors who have ignored ministry directives, school
directors who have refused to open  their schools' doors to pupils, and
teachers, mostly union activists who are never in class, who harassed
colleagues who   refused to strike,'' said Miloody Vincent, the
ministry's press secretary.  Vincent estimated that state schools were
operating at 60 to 80 percent of normal levels. Haiti, the Western
hemisphere's poorest nation, has an illiteracy rate of about 65 percent
among its 7 million people.