Education International
Education International

Iran: teachers will hold unprecedented nationwide strike on 6 Mar to uphold their right to a living wage

published 2 March 2007 updated 2 March 2007

Iranian teachers have waited 5 years for their pay to rise above the poverty line, and now, the current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime is going to destroy their hope by repealing the Pay Parity Bill drafted by the previous Parliament.

The Pay Parity Bill was drafted in 2001 by the 6th Parliament to answer the education workers who were holding massive protests and demonstrations all over the country. Five years have passed and the bill has still not been enacted. Now, the electoral promise of Ahmadinejad to bring oil money to the dining table of the people was not fulfilled for the teachers, and furthermore, the Parliament is repealing the Pay Parity Bill.

Teachers live in poverty as the Iranian education system crumbles

In Iran, the average monthly income of a teacher is about US$278, the lowest among all public employees. They also receive the lowest year-end bonus, about US$275. The current poverty line in the country is US$543, so to make ends meet, teachers often have to work in another job, many of them in hospitals or private businesses. To make things worse, the inflation rate has hovered around 15% per annum in the last five years.

According to the superintendent of the Teaching Profession Centre, Ali Akbar Baghani, the government's recent announcement that they cannot provide the money for heaters for children this winter is an understatement: there are currently 45,000 classrooms in the country that run the risk of ceilings caving in. Teachers do not have desks to work on and children do not have enough benches or chairs. As many as 9 million children take classes in three shifts. Teachers in rural areas have no transportation to go to school and schools often lack the most basic teaching and learning material such as textbooks. While all teachers are aware of the problems, none dare to speak up.

The low pay and bad working conditions are the direct cause for the high failure rate. In 2006, as many as 4 million students or more than one-third of the student population failed. Without proper learning and teaching conditions, this number is not surprising.

Teachers rise in protest for better working conditions and higher wages, despite government's repressive measures

Iranian teachers have had enough of low wages and poor working conditions. The situation will only be worse when the government repeals the Pay Parity Bill instead of enacting it. On 23 Jan 2007, over 100 teachers demonstrated outside the Parliament building in Tehran. On 4 Feb, another protest was held and the number grew to a thousand. They formed a long line and were surround by military forces. The demonstration ended at 5 o'clock in the afternoon with a statement telling the Parliament it had until 14 Feb to pass or renew the Pay Parity Bill.

No reply was received from the government. On 19-20 Feb, teachers in various provinces all over the country conducted classroom "sit-ins". As they were told that they do not have the right to take leave to protest, many teachers went to schools but did not conduct any lessons. Despite the warning issued by the government, as many as 40% of all teachers did not go to school on 19 Feb.

On 22 Feb, more than 3,000 teachers and academics gathered outside the Parliament building to demand the enactment of the Pay Parity Bill. Military forces and plainclothes security agents were also present in large numbers.

Several individuals were seen taking photos of the protesters from the Parliament building's windows, presumably to identify them for future prosecution. A speaking platform was raised and about 20 male and female teachers took turns to speak about the teachers' plight, ranging from the low wages and impossible working conditions to repressive measures taken by the government against teachers and the mismanagement of the country's education system. The protest ended with a 4-point resolution:

1. Should the teachers' issues not be addressed, they will return to protest in front of the Parliament on 3 March 2007.

2. The teachers will not accept negotiations with any authority other than the President or the Head of Parliament.

3. Should the teacher's demands not receive any clear resolution, they will go on strike on 6 March 2007.

4. In the interest of proceeding in an objective and transparent manner, the teachers invite representatives of the Parliament and the government and teacher leaders to a round table discussion.

Through EI, teachers around the world express solidarity with Iranian colleagues

Education International, the Global Union representing 30 million education workers around the world, shows its strong support for Iranian teachers and their cause. EI condemns any repressive measures against teachers and stands up for the right of all teachers to teach in good working conditions and receive a living wage, and the right of all children to learn in good learning conditions.

EI is closely monitoring the situation in Iran and strongly urges the Iranian government to enter negotiations with the teachers.

For more information:

You may access the full text of the Statement of Protest by the Teachers and Members of the Co-ordinated Council of Cultural Workers' Associsations dated 4 Feb 2007 HERE.

The following links will lead you to external news items on the teachers' protest in Farsi. However, should you need an English translation of the news, please contact our Human and Trade Union Rights Co-ordinator, Dominique Marlet: dominique.marlet@ei-ie.org(Tel: +32-2 224 0680).