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Page last updated at 17:03 GMT, Tuesday, 1 July 2008 18:03 UK

Maldives teachers strike over pay

By Olivia Lang
Male

School children in the Maldives
Many pupils discovered they were without a teacher

About 1,500 teachers in the Maldives have began an indefinite strike after salary rises promised by the government failed to materialise.

The capital, Male, has been worst affected, with nearly half of all teachers on strike and many schools sending students home early.

The strike has hit all areas of a country made up of hundreds of islands.

Education Minister Zahiya Zareer said nearly a quarter of teachers did not turn up to work on Monday.

'Negotiation'

A teachers' association is now demanding that a pay structure agreed in late 2006 be put into place immediately after it backed down on earlier calls to double salaries.

"Since last year [the government] has been saying they will try, try, try. But teachers are no longer accepting their efforts," said Abdulla Mohamed, spokesperson for the Association of Teacher's Link.

School children in Male
Pupils in male were severely affected by the strike

An official at the education ministry sympathised with the teachers' demands but urged them to negotiate rather than strike.

The basic salary of a teacher is $329 a month, with an additional $157 for overtime and other benefits.

Finance Minister Gasim Ibrahim said on Sunday that he could not accommodate their demands in this year's budget, which is already $180m short.

The teachers have now downgraded their demands, calling for immediate implementation of the original pay structure pledged around 18 months ago, which accords pay to qualifications and positions held.

The move comes after a series of pay rises to civil servants in the run-up to the country's first multi-party presidential elections, due to be held before 10 October.

It is the first time President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who has been in power for 30 years and is seeking a seventh term, will face opponents at the polls.

The strike is the second major industrial dispute the country has seen after a strike by taxi drivers in June 2007.

The government, which has faced criticism in the past for a crackdown on pro-democracy riots, did not recognise last year's strike.

But a new constitution, which is expected to be ratified by the president within weeks, will grant a host of democratic rights to citizens for the first time - including the right to take industrial action.


SEE ALSO
Attack on president of Maldives
08 Jan 08 |  South Asia
Maldives militant move condemned
18 Oct 07 |  South Asia
Ten arrested over Maldives blast
01 Oct 07 |  South Asia
Country profile: The Maldives
06 Feb 08 |  Country profiles

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