The French Republic is currently experiencing a huge social movement. The outcry against the pension reforms, imposed by Nicolas Sarkozy’s government, has brought the French masses out into the streets.
College students and teachers joined other workers to show that not only are pensions under threat, but also jobs, salaries, working conditions and even the future of young people.
A high number of colleges participated in the protests on 12, 16 and 19 October. The National Union of Secondary Education (SNES-FSU) described the protests as ‘the mobilisation of young people on an issue that affects them, and the expression of the concerns of a generation that is at risk of experiencing a quality of life that is significantly lower than that of previous generations.’
The quality of state-funded education is also threatened by the budget cuts and the downgrading of the status of the civil servant. All levels of education and all staff are seriously affected. According to trade union federation UNSA-Education, the budget announced in September by the Ministry of Education envisages the loss of 8,967 jobs in primary education, at a time when pupil numbers will increase by 4,000. This is a drastic decrease in resources which could lead to an increase in the number of pupils per class, the end of schooling from the age of two or a reduction in continuing education programmes, amongst other measures.
In secondary education, job cuts will affect 4,800 teaching posts, as well as 600 administrative posts. At the same time, student teaching programme reforms mean that, rather than spending six hours per week in the classroom in order to learn teaching methods, students will be required to work 18 classroom hours per week, without any preparation; almost the equivalent of their qualified and more experienced colleagues.
To date, the French government has responded to the mobilisation with denial and repression, even at the risk of radicalising the social conflict. The SNES-FSU has condemned the violence that has occurred, particularly involving young people, and called for teaching staff to support and help their students in order to prevent incidents. The inter-union coordinating committee announced two new days of action against the pension reforms. Workers are called to strike on Thursday 28 October and to participate in protests on Saturday 6 November. Education International expresses its solidarity with French trade unions and supports the efforts of the teaching profession to retain quality public education in France.