Following difficult months of conflicts and long strikes, the teacher unions in Suriname have won substantial wage increases from the government, as well as a collective agreement which addresses discrepancies between teachers' working conditions.
Teachers of senior secondary and higher education levels (excluding university faculty) will benefit from raises between 7 and 46 percent, retroactive to 1 January 2008. And from 1 January 2009, the minimum wages will again be increased by between 19 and 45 percent. For teachers working at the primary and junior secondary levels, increases for 2008 range from 29 to 33 percent and will be followed by subsequent increases ranging from 19 to 30 percent next year.
Wilgo Valies, President of the BvL, one of the EI affiliates in Suriname, thanked EI and its member organisations, specifically the Dutch teacher union AOb, for their support throughout the strike. Following two strikes, the deadlock was resolved through a judicial order instructing the parties to start negotiations in the presence of a mediator. The mediation resulted in these significant wage increases and the signing of a collective agreement.
In July, the EI regional coordinator for the Caribbean, Virginia Albert, held meetings with the ministers of Education and Home Affairs. These audiences followed a protest letter sent by EI to the President of Suriname deploring the low level of teacher salaries in that country.
EI is relieved that teachers will now have improved wages and working conditions, and that the school year can resume smoothly.