French education unions are mobilizing against the government’s plan to cut 11,200 teaching jobs at the beginning of the next school year. Since early last week, secondary teachers have been on strike at various schools throughout the country.
The National Secondary Teachers Union (SNES) called for a strike 27 March in the school district of Créteil, near Paris. Other school districts across France are expected to join in the strike.
On March 26, SNES successfully initiated a meeting of schools fighting against the government education policy. This event, organised in collaboration with other education unions, SNEP FSU and SNUEP FSU, brought together more than 120 educators representing about 50 schools in 12 local education districts.
“Our claims are the following: We want the jobs back! In some secondary schools, 10 to 15 positions are threatened. Also, with fewer teachers, overtime hours will be increased for those remaining. We are strongly against overtime hours,” says Claudie Martens, SNES co-General Secretary.
“There has been a feeling of discontent for the past few weeks. Since the strike in secondary schools on 18 March, which was supported by the majority of secondary school teachers, a dynamic has developed,” she notes. “Now students' unions are also calling for action. They call for a new day of action to support teachers on 2 April. On that day, SNES will meet with members of Parliament and will go to the Ministry of Education for discussions.”
And students are not the only ones supporting the secondary school teachers. “The Parents of Students in Public Schools Councils Federation (FCPE) sent a press release on 26 March saying that parents are backing the teachers. In many school districts, they are joining the demonstrations,” adds Martens.
At the same time, UNSA-Education, another EI affiliate, is currently holding its national Congress in Bordeaux. In his opening speech, Patrick Gonthier, UNSA General Secretary and EI Vice-President, was critical of the reforms French President Nicolas Sarkozy has initiated in education.
Gonthier regretted that “reduced budgets have, month after month, reflected the withdrawal of the State, the deliberate choice to put education as a public service at risk. Schools have been particularly targeted. Over the years, governments have chosen to cut education budgets and 2008 is the most severe, with 11,200 job cuts in the public education system.”
Gonthier also reminded his audience of UNSA’s strong international commitment through Education International. “Unionism, at the global level, has a key role to play,” he said. “In a globalised economy there are no more independent education systems,” he explained. “Solutions adopted in one country, without any reference to education policies elsewhere, are not possible anymore.”
To learn more about French education unions and their ongoing resistance to government funding cuts and policy changes, see: