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News: Teachers in Hadiya Zone endure arrests, intimidation as wage fight intensifies

Located in the newly created Central Ethiopia Regional State, Hossaena town serves as the administrative hub of the Hadiya Zone (Social Media)

Addis Abeba – Educators in the Hadiya zone of the recently formed Central Ethiopia region are allegedly being subjected to arrests as they raise their voices against the long-standing issue of delayed salary payments.

Multiple sources, speaking to Addis Standard, have reported that these teachers, who have been demanding their rightful wages, are being specifically targeted by regional security forces. Consequently, a climate of fear and suppression has permeated the teaching community in the area.

An anonymous resident of Hossana town, the administrative seat of Hadiya Zone, revealed that although there has been a partial disbursement of salaries for two months, the problem of non-payment persists for teachers and civil servants in the region.

The source further claimed that those who seek their overdue wages face the risk of imprisonment and threats from security personnel. According to him, the crackdown appears to be more pronounced in Hossana town, where teachers have been particularly active on social media platforms in expressing their grievances.

The issue of delayed salary payments is particularly severe in the rural areas of the Hadiya zone, especially in the East and West Badwacho districts. In these districts, numerous educators have not received their salaries, leading to the unfortunate consequence of several schools being forced to shut down.

A teacher from East Badwacho district, Shone town, informed Addis Standard that despite receiving only slices of their salaries for September and October after persistent appeals, the full payment of their dues, including the most recent month’s salary, remains outstanding.

The same teacher confirmed incidents of harassment within the educational community, noting that authorities are withholding the salaries of 40 teachers as a repercussion for their demands for an explanation regarding the salary delays. According to him, frequent arrests have been reported among teachers who publicly address the issue in East Badwacho.

In light of the persistent challenges, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has increased its scrutiny of the human rights climate in Central and Southern Ethiopia, especially in the wake of the region’s recent restructure. The EHRC’s probe has uncovered that since 2019, salary issues for 9,000 teachers in the Zone have been chronic, with remunerations routinely delayed by 10 to 20 days and often only partially paid.

The predicament worsened in August 2023 when the majority of government employees faced reductions in their wages. This has precipitated a complex crisis with far-reaching social and economic ramifications, leading to a marked decline in the availability of public services. Consequently, many residents have been compelled to seek vital services, including healthcare, in adjacent zones due to the disruption of local amenities.

According to the Commission, workers are struggling to meet daily needs, cover rent, and secure loans after micro finance institutions halted lending to civil servants. Many have no alternative sources of income and are resorting to ad-hoc jobs such as selling furniture. The EHRC has documented cases of intimidation, including threats, assaults, and imprisonment, directed at those protesting the lack of payment.

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Healthcare services in the four districts have been severely disrupted by strikes due to wage non-payment. Notably, Shone Primary Hospital, which serves 650,000 people, was forced to close in October 2023 as staff ceased work.

The impact on education is also profound, with over 101,000 public school students left without classes during the investigation, as teachers have gone unpaid.

The EHRC revealed last week that city and district officials have attributed recent salary delays to a shortage in the budget. Typically, employee salaries are financed through subsidies from the federal government, bolstered by locally generated revenue. However, the reallocation of these federal funds for alternate expenditures, notably fertilizer purchases, has precipitated a shortfall in the allocation for salaries.

Despite these financial hurdles, the administration of Hadiya Zone has been striving to fill the budgetary gaps with loans, ensuring salary payments for eight of the 19 districts, according to the EHRC.

The EHRC is urging the government to implement corrective actions to guarantee timely payment of wages and to protect fundamental rights. It references both international law and Ethiopia’s labor statutes, which require wages to be paid at least once a month. AS

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