Egyptian schoolteachers were at the forefront of the struggle to build independent unions in the year before the 25 January revolution and have played a key role in organising strikes since the fall of Mubarak.
The Independent Teachers’ Syndicate was founded in July 2010 with a membership of around 5000. The new union called for improvements in the teachers’ pay and better job security, following a controversial change to the law which made it easier to sack newly-appointed teachers. In September 2010 activists from the new union took part in a mock trial of the Minister of Education in a bid to highlight flaws in the education system.
The ITS was one of the founding members of the Egyptian Independent Union Federation, launched in Tahrir Square on 30 January 2011, just days into the uprising against Mubarak. Teachers’ strikes swept through Egypt in March. Six thousand teachers in Qena Governorate went on strike on 1 March demanding that colleagues on temporary contracts be made permanent. Meanwhile teachers in 7 governorates were reported to have joined strikes on 3 March demanding better pay, bonuses and job security for colleagues on temporary contracts.
A key struggle for the ITS in the post-Mubarak era is against the old state-run Teachers Syndicate. The ITS has launched a campaign to stop teachers being forced to pay subs to the Mubarak union. The ITS and its sister unions in the Egyptian Independent Union Federation have won support from the international trade union movement for their struggle to build unions free from state control, however. Education International, the global federation of teaching unions is strongly supportive of the independent unions in Egypt and the ITS.
A statement of the ITS demands to Prime Minister Essam Sharaf can be found here.