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#1083: Haitian teachers suspend two-month strike (fwd)


Haitian teachers suspend two-month strike  06:46 p.m Nov 23, 1999
Eastern _________ By Jennifer Bauduy 

RT-AU-PRINCE, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Thousands of Haitian public school
teachers went back to work on Tuesday after nearly two months of
striking for higher pay and better working conditions, union leaders
said. `We have decided to respond to the call of students and civil
society by suspending the strike,'' said Raynand Pierre,          
secretary-general of the National Confederation of Haitian Educators
(CNEH), one of two striking teachers' unions. ``Our struggle will
continue and we may be forced to take up the strike again,'' he said,
adding that the union was still willing to  enter talks with the
Ministry of Education.  Last week, about 5,000 public school students
gathered in the National Theatre to call on teachers to return to the
classroom.  For more than two years, public school teachers have held
strikes to force the government to abide by 1997 and 1999 contract
agreements to revise the education system, provide teachers with social
benefits and increase salaries. The 1997 agreement called for an 182
percent pay raise. Teachers have already received a 150 percent raise,
but the  government has refused to pay the remaining 32 percent,       
insisting it does not have the funds. Full-time teachers make between
US$100 and US$150 per   month. A 32 percent raise would add more than
US$32 a   month. Haiti's per capita income is about US$450 a year,
according to the Haitian Institute of Statistics and Information.     
CNEH said it filed two complaints against the Haitian  government -- one
with the World Labour Organisation and another with the International
Human Rights Committee in Geneva -- alleging it violated contract
agreements and abrogated the teachers' right to strike by firing some
striking educators. The CNEH said it has about 5,000 members but was
unsure how many were on strike. There are about 20,000 teachers in      
the nation's public schools, according to the government. The other
striking teachers' union, the National Union of Haitian Teachers, said
it will continue its strike.