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Libyan Professors May Finally Get Raises Under New Agreement

/ 16 Nov 2021

Libyan Professors May Finally Get Raises Under New Agreement

After years of protests for better pay and conditions, Libyan professors ended a sit-in and resumed classes on Saturday, after the government agreed to increase their wages.

The agreement between the General Syndicate of University Faculty Members in Libya and the minister of higher education, Omran al-Qeeb, will increase professors’ wages from October. The agreement also grants the syndicate the right to reverse the suspension of the sit-in if the government fails to meet its obligations.

The minister of finance has in the past failed to include agreed increases in the budget because of tough economic conditions and obligations to repay government debt. (See a related article, “Libyan University Professors Are Promised a Pay Raise.”)

Abdel-Fattah Al-Sayeh, the head of the general syndicate, told Al-Fanar Media that the approval of the pay rise came after five and a half years of struggle.

The latest Libyan Cabinet Resolution will increase university lecturers’ wages by 70 percent, while overtime will be raised from $15 to $22 per hour.

“We realised the need to search for an existing law that stipulates an increase in our wages, without needing new legislation,”

Abdel-Fattah Al-Sayeh   Head of the general syndicate

The agreement also settled grievances over the status of faculty members returning from abroad, those who have had their wages suspended or only partly paid, and those who changed their status from teaching assistants to tenured faculty members.

The various local unions at Libyan universities welcomed the agreement. In return, they agreed to end their sit-ins and resume classes.

‘A Great Achievement’

Salah El-Din Sharif, a professor at the University of Benghazi’s Faculty of Science, told Al-Fanar Media: “The crisis is not completely over, but the agreement is a great achievement for the syndicate.”

The agreement sorely tested the syndicate’s “ability to defend the rights of professors and improve conditions and educational standards, which have deteriorated in recent years, Sharif said.

The monthly wages for professors at Libya’s public universities range from 950 Libyan dinars (about $200) for an assistant lecturer to 2,100 Libyan dinars (about $460) for an associate professor.

Libya’s university professors have been demanding a pay rise for more than five years. The general syndicate began the struggle by studying the reasons why government agencies had failed to implement previous pay increase proposals.

Syndicate officials concluded that they had to present alternative legal paths to achieve professors’ rights, rather than submit new bills to the Libyan parliament, Al-Sayeh said.

“We realised the need to search for an existing law that stipulates an increase in our wages, without needing new legislation,” he said. “This was after we saw the official division of Libya into east and west in recent years.” (See a related article, “A Country Runs Out of Cash, and Students Suffer.”)

Al-Sayeh thus proposed to state institutions, in the east and west, an amendment to an existing law to oblige the authorities to give a wage increase to all university professors.

Besides the legal proposal, Al-Sayeh said the syndicate put pressure on the authorities by establishing media and legal platforms to defend professors’ rights.

Strikes Were Costly for Professors

“We aspire to rehabilitate professors academically and to develop existing educational institutions to be in line with the needs of development and employment.”

Salah El-Din Sharif   A professor at the University of Benghazi

During fierce clashes on the outskirts of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, in September 2019, the syndicate unprecedentedly called on university faculty members to join a comprehensive strike. (See a related article, “A Professors’ Strike in Libya Reveals a Troubled University System.”)

Since then, the syndicate has repeatedly called for strikes. The last was the recent sit-ins that culminated in the new agreement with the government.

Al-Sayeh added: “The strike option was costly for all professors because of the turbulent security situation, the written threats that some of us received, and the attempts to infiltrate our classrooms to thwart our   efforts. However, it was one of the main reasons we succeeded in getting our rights recognised.”

The syndicate next intends to negotiate with the Ministry of Higher Education on “many issues related to improving the status of faculty members,” Al-Sayeh said. It wants to help them develop research opportunities, and to facilitate the return of exchange students. (See a related article, “Libyan Higher Education Minister Has High Aims but Scant Funds.”)

Professors Feel Besieged

Sharif, who is a member of the University of Benghazi’s Faculty Members Union, said: “Libyan university professors have become besieged at home and abroad.” Difficulties hinder scientific research at home, he said, and it is impossible to ​​go abroad because of the scarcity of academic work opportunities  and the high cost of travel.

He added: “To outsiders, we have become suspicious people, just for coming from war and conflict areas.”

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Sharif received a Ph.D. degree from the University of Glasgow in 2017. He plans with the help of the general syndicate to put a package of measures before all concerned parties, in the hope of further improving the country’s higher education sector.

“We aspire to rehabilitate professors academically and to develop existing educational institutions to be in line with the needs of development and employment,” he said.




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Copyright © 2018 Al-Fanar Mediaحقوق © 2018 الفنار للإعلام