TEGUCIGALPA – Teachers in Honduras declared a strike Sept. 29 to press for the payment of back pay to some 5,000 co-workers, leaving about 2 million students without classes.
The strike was called by the FOMH teachers’ union, which includes the four largest organizations of elementary- and middleschool teachers.
President Mel Zelaya’s administration has not paid some teachers since February, a situation that many observers have blamed on the politicization of teacher hiring.
The FOMH called for a rally last week in front of the Congress in Tegucigalpa to demand disbursement of the back pay, which the labor federation estimates totals some $7.8 million.
The pay dispute has not been resolved because officials have not complied with several agreements signed by the two sides in recent months, union leaders said.
One union leader, Saturnino Sánchez, told reporters that the government had not complied “by even 20 percent” with the last agreement, which was signed in July.
Education Minister Marlon Breve acknowledged in statements to the press that “the situation is critical” because the salary budget for teachers has been exceeded and exhausted.
He said the dispute stemmed, in part, from the approval by Congress of thousands of teaching positions without consulting the education and finance ministries.
The positions were left out of the budget, but the teachers have been working anyway.
Teachers have staged numerous protests this year over the pay dispute, forcing students to miss at least 30 days of classes.
Some 50,000 teachers work in the public school system.