Unions in Algeria and Tunisia call lecturer strikes

The Algerian higher education union Conseil National des Enseignants du Supérieur, or CNES, called a three-day strike last week principally over a revised statute for lecturer-researchers; while in Tunisia last-minute talks between the Fédération Générale de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche Scientifique and the higher education ministry failed to prevent a one-day strike over bonuses.

In Algeria, following the patchy three-day strike that started on 14 April, CNES was due to review the situation on Saturday to consider further action following lack of agreement with the ministry over its demands, notably on a revised statute for lecturer-researchers which it claimed was regressive.

The union called the strike following a meeting on Sunday, 12 April, when it issued a statement formally rejecting the modified statute “which entails a reversal compared with the initial text”, reported the Algérie Presse Service, or APS.

Other demands included an increase in salaries; cutting university bureaucracy; dealing with teachers’ housing problems; and revision of the LMD – licence-masters-doctorate, the structure based on the Bologna process of three, five and eight years of higher studies – reported Algérie Patriotique.

The CNES claimed that promises had been given but not kept since revision of the special status for lecturer-researchers in 2008, indicating the complete contempt of the public authorities for teachers and the worrying absence of strategy for universities, Algérie Patriotique reported.

El Watan of Algiers reported Malik Rahmani, president of CNES, as saying there were nearly 25,000 lecturers who had been recruited since 2008 who had “never had a salary increase”.

“With out-of-date salaries and in the absence of a tangible solution to the housing problem, the university lecturer has no protection from precarious conditions, which must draw urgent attention of the public authorities,” Rahmani said.

Strike patchy

In spite of the grievances not all universities were following the strike, reported APS.

At the University Algiers 2 of Bouzaréah and the economics and management faculty of Dely Ibrahim, courses were being held normally; while teachers confirmed conditions were bad, they argued for the need to continue dialogue and negotiation with the ministry, said APS.

It reported that at Oran, Mostaganem, Tlemcen, Sidi Bel-Abbès and Mascara the strike was being followed by some teachers, but on the first day of the action the universities were not ‘paralysed’.

The higher education and research ministry confirmed to APS that the CNES claims were being examined and dialogue was taking place, the most recent session having been held the previous week.

APS said the CNES was due to meet again on Saturday 18 April to decide on further action. It quoted a statement from Rahmani saying this would probably mean a strike limited to one or two weeks.

The strike in Tunisia

In Tunisia officials of the higher education and research union, Fédération Générale de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche Scientifique, and the higher education ministry held last-minute talks on Monday 13 April, but these did not prevent a one-day strike by union members the following day.

Hassine Boujerra, general secretary of the union, claimed the “success of the strike following failure of negotiations yesterday, Monday, between the union and the ministry of higher education and scientific research” but gave no figures concerning the strike turnout, reported La Presse of Tunis.

Boujerra said the union council would meet again soon to decide the next course of action, reported La Presse.

The paper recalled that the union had decided on 4 April to call the strike demanding enactment of agreements previously signed, including those concerning bonuses for certain academic achievements and duties and for some lecturers – for example to encourage those working in the country’s interior regions – payable at the start of the university year.

La Presse reported that Radhouane Boukhris, an official in the minister’s office, said there existed “a divergence of views on the positions of the union concerning the bonuses to the extent that they have been incorporated into the increases obtained by university lecturers since December 2012 which have risen to 900 dinars [US$460]”.

On the ‘encouragement’ bonuses, he said it was first necessary to establish precise working procedures in universities at a regional level.

* This article is drawn from local media. University World News cannot vouch for the accuracy of the original reports.