Belgium: “Hands off our pensions”, say education unions
Teachers in Belgium stopped work for an hour on 1 February, in response to a call from education unions to denounce the Federal Government's pension policy.
In the Wallonia-Brussels Federation’s schools, educators mobilised and stopped work for one hour on 1 February. The aim was to raise public awareness, mainly among parents, of the precariousness of the profession, and the gradual deterioration experienced at the end of teachers' working lives.
Teachers’ unions, including Education International affiliates, namely the Centrale générale des services publics – Enseignement(CGSP-FGTB), the Confédération des Syndicats Chrétiens de l’Enseignement(CSC-Enseignement) and the Syndicat Libre de la Fonction Publique- Vrij Syndicaat van het Openbaar Ambt (SLFP-VSOA), demanded:
- the upholding of the ‘contract’ between public service workers and the authorities
- the defence of young colleagues' jobs with a view to swifter permanent positions
- the defence of quality education: lengthening teachers’ careers could deprive students of thousands of hours of class contact time
- a more equitable pension for women who may have lost work time to raise their children at home
- a fair acknowledgement of the difficulties inherent in the teaching profession
The work stoppage followed government actions to raise the pension age of public servants, including teachers.
In 2015, the Belgian Federal Government raised the pension age to 67. However, it also said that people with a difficult job could take early retirement.
On 22 December 2017, the Minister for Pensions, Daniel Bacquelaine, tabled a draft bill which provides for early retirement for certain people, provided that their profession is acknowledged as being burdensome. However, for the Minister, mental or emotional hardship alone may not qualify as hardship. This omission could exclude teachers from early retirement.
This union action was relayed on social networks via the hashtag, #MRtouchepasànospensions (#MRhandsoffourpensions).