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Pay-rise promise fails to stop protests

RUSSIA

Russia's long-suffering teachers have been promised a pay rise of up to 40 per cent as part of the Kremlin's pound;1 billion drive to tackle years of neglect in the education sector.

The federal budget for teachers' pay will be increased by a third from October, education minister Vladimir Filippov announced a fortnight ago.

But the news was not enough to prevent a wave of strikes and demonstrations last week when teachers, health workers and other public-sector employees demanded the government clear wage arrears totalling more than pound;50 million.

The pay increase, announced by Mr Filippov during a televised Kremlin meeting with President Vladimir Putin, promises more than 1.4m teachers between pound;20 and pound;40 extra a month.

"Teachers' salaries depend on seniority and in which regions they work, but most earn between 3,000 5,000 roubles ((pound;60-pound;100) a month," a spokeswoman said.

In a country where teachers have long come at the bottom of the list of government priorities, and where chronic wage arrears were a feature of the system until recently, the increases will be welcome.

Four years ago Russia's teachers were shocked by the death of Alexander Motorin, a 43-year-old teacher from the central Russian city of Ulyanovsk, where he had been on hunger strike over unpaid wages. Since then education has crept up the political agenda.

Last year the education budget exceeded that of defence for the first time in Russian history, although teachers remain cynical.

Vyacheslav Sashenkov, a secondary school head from central Russia, said:

"Most of our salaries depend on regional payments, and much-vaunted increases rarely turn out to be so good in reality."

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