Retired Chinese teachers protest pension program

08:08, October 26, 2010      

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More than 200 retired teachers who used to work at vocational schools operating under State-owned enterprises (SOEs) staged a three-hour protest Monday in Beijing for more pension benefits.

The 206 teachers from 22 provinces gathered in front of the headquarters of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC), the agency in charge of managing the country's SOEs.

A 57-year-old leader of the petitioners, who gave only his surname Yan, said the move was the 27th such petition by the group in the past six years.

Yan, who used to work as a vocational teacher at the China Construction Sixth Engineering Division Corp, told the Global Times Monday that the retired teachers had appealed to the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Finance, and the State Bureau for Letters and Calls, but none of the departments seemed able to solve their problem.

Wearing a badge saying, "Campaign of retired teachers from SOEs schools," Ma Mingliang, a middle school teacher affiliated with the Shougang Group, a large State-owned steel company, told the Global Times that he gets "only 500 yuan ($75) a month in pension funds from the company."

"This is not even enough to cover my monthly expenses," he complained. "The company has not treated me as a retired teacher, but as a worker, whose retirement benefits are much lower."

He said retired teachers from public schools are eligible to receive nearly 3,000 yuan a month.

Yan said she attended an urgent meeting at 2 pm Monday with SASAC officials. "I was told that SASAC, the Ministry of Education and two other governmental organs were discussing the practical regulations on this issue," she said.

The group dispersed after the meeting.

There are up to 60,000 retired teachers from vocational schools run by the SOEs throughout China, various media reports indicate.

Before massive economic reforms were enacted in the 1980s, large Chinese SOEs ran hospitals and schools. Some SOEs could run schools ranging from kindergartens to middle schools, and from preschools to vocational schools.

It wasn't until the 1990s that primary and middle school teachers at SOEs began to be managed by local governments, which have been eligible for government funding, just as public schools are. However, teachers from vocational schools aren't completely detached from companies, which pay them.

"We shouldn't be treated as ordinary company workers. We have decades of teaching experience," Ma said.

Geng Shen, a researcher with the Beijing Academy of Educational Sciences, said that these teachers deserve sympathy, but it is unreasonable to press for higher pensions because they are not retired teachers from public schools.

"The Teachers Law has no stipulations on fixed pensions to teachers. Teachers' pensions differ by region and employer. It makes more sense for these teachers to appeal to the businesses they belong to," he said, conceding that compulsory education teachers enjoy more benefits.

However, he said, SOEs should strive to make more money and take bigger steps to reform themselves so their employees, including the retired teachers from vocational schools, can enjoy the fruits of the reform.

Su Guifeng, a spokesman at SASAC, told the Global Times that it is impossible to address every situation regarding retired teachers while formulating relevant laws and regulations.

As early as 2004, the Information Office of the State Council issued a circular con-cerning the treatment of retired primary and secondary school teachers in State-owned enterprises, but the office failed to address teachers from vocational schools.

According to the Teachers Law, primary and secondary school teachers refer to those who taught in a kindergarten, special education institutions, ordinary primary and secondary schools, and vocational middle schools.

Cui Wu, a Nanjing-based lawyer who used to be a teacher, told the Global Times that the problem lies in how the government policies are interpreted and applied.

"Some organizations or local departments care only for their own interests and always want to pay less, so they tend to apply policies in their own interests while ignoring the interests of some groups of people," he said.

Song Shengxia contributed to this story

By Jin Jianyu and Guo Qiang, Global Times


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