28 January 2019

Tunisia: Secondary Education - Ministry Makes General Education Union Assume Failure of Negotiations

Tunis/Tunisia — The Ministry of Education on Monday made the secondary education federation assume "full responsibility for the aggravation of the sector and for having mortgaged the interests of students and their families".

It affirmed that it "will not remain indifferent and will take all necessary legal and pedagogical measures, dictated by this sensitive situation in order to protect the interests of Tunisian students, educators and families and to remove "the spectre of the null Year that the federation seeks to impose in a flagrant and arrogant challenge to all parties".

In a statement issued on Monday evening, after the failure of negotiations with the General Union of Secondary Education, the Department of Education reaffirmed its commitment to dialogue and its rejection of "the irresponsible and unserious method of negotiation".

Regarding the negotiating session convened by the Secondary Education Union, the Ministry of Education noted that "everyone was looking forward to agreements on outstanding issues", indicating that it had coordinated with the Prime Ministry and was ready to move forward with its previous proposals by presenting 7 proposals on doubling the back-to-school and examination bonuses (control and correction) as well as the approval of the functional bonus for principals and the exceptional promotion for teachers recruited in 2015.

Among other proposals, he cited the compilation of the periodic work bonus and that of priority institutions into a common bonus, the creation of research promotion, the strengthening of educational institutions in financial difficulty and the generalisation of the pension system for primary school teachers to secondary school teachers with a mechanism for charging teachers who do not meet the conditions of seniority in educational, pedagogical or training work.

On the other hand, the ministry stated regarding the conduct of the negotiation that it was surprised at this session chaired by Minister Hatem Ben Salem by "the refusal of the social partner to listen to any of the ministry's proposals and to limit the negotiation session to three (3) points out of a total of nine (9) points while trying to impose dicta far from the logic of normal negotiation".

The Ministry indicated that the trade union delegation left the negotiating session without justification while an attempt was made to enter the Minister's office by force before the beginning of the session in a "desperate attempt, a deliberate provocation and an attack on the prestige of the State and its symbols to prevent the launch of the negotiations".

The Ministry of Education and the General Union of Secondary Education announced on Monday the failure of the negotiations session. Both sides accused each other of being responsible for this failure.

Education Minister Hatem Ben Salem stressed in a statement to media that the meeting took place in "special circumstances", accusing sit-inner teachers of trying to break into his office.

According to him, the union is responsible for the stalling of the negotiations, stating that it was content to discuss only specific bonuses and retirement. "The other proposals concerning the claims in the professional motion were rejected," he said.

For him, the fact that 14 Directors-General of the Ministry attended this meeting illustrates his willingness to reach an agreement, noting that his Ministry has proposed to allocate 64 million dinars to meet the teachers' demands.

The government and the ministry, he argued, have fully assumed their responsibilities to try to find a solution to the crisis, except that the union only wants to compromise the smooth running of the school year. "We remain open to negotiation," he said.

The federation's deputy secretary general, Néjib Sallami, explained that this session had failed because the ministry had not presented proposals concerning specific bonuses and retirement, adding that it wanted to discuss other bonuses that had already been agreed.

"The government remains the party responsible for the success of the school year," he insisted, expressing the will to make progress in the negotiations.

The National Administrative Commission for the Secondary Education Sector, meeting on 24 December 2018, decided to boycott the duties of control, the second trimester examinations and to resume sit-ins in the headquarters of the regional education police stations in the event of punitive measures against educators, school principals and high schools and to organise two days of anger on 9 and 23 January 2019 after having boycotted the first trimester examinations.

This boycott follows the failure of negotiations on a number of demands by the General Federation of Secondary Education relating mainly to the doubling of certain bonuses, the revision of the retirement age, the granting of a specific bonus, the exceptional promotion and the improvement of the situation of certain educational institutions.

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