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Monday, October 26, 1998 Published at 14:31 GMT


Unpaid teachers close Russian classrooms

Pupils have been affected by teachers' strikes this term

Industrial unrest in Russian schools continues with striking teachers closing classrooms in Siberia.

Teachers in six districts of the eastern Siberian province of Chita have walked out over unpaid wages. This has meant the cancellation of lessons in 31 schools.

The Education and Science Workers' Union claimed that teachers have not received full salaries since February, with over 100m roubles (£4.1m) owed in back pay.

Meanwhile in the Kavalerovo district, on Russia's far-eastern coast, schools have re-opened after teachers ended a two week strike.

An agreement between regional authorities and teachers' unions led to a suspension of industrial action, on the understanding that wages arrears are begun to be paid back.

If payment of overdue wages does not start within two weeks, teachers' leaders are threatening an indefinite strike.

Teachers in Kavalerovo have not received a full wage for two years, a situation which union leaders says has seen a local teachers' wage debt rising to 260m roubles (£10.7m).

Strikes and protests have affected tens of thousands of schoolchildren across Russia this term, with unpaid teachers' wages central to most disputes.

The opening day of term, Knowledge Day, was boycotted by some teachers, followed later in September by the closure of 1,800 schools in a protest strike.

In western Siberia teachers were reported to being paid in bottles of vodka, as authorities lacked money to meet wages bill.

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