Education International
Education International

Panellists share strategies to build better unions

published 24 July 2011 updated 25 July 2011

Facing political, economic and ideological attacks, how can we become stronger together? Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC, explored this question with four panellists at EI's World Congress.

EI Vice-President, Juçara Dutra Vieira, spoke of the effort to organise more than 400 municipal, provincial and national unions into a single coalition. Along with civil society groups, they mounted a campaign to highlight the links between national external debt and a decline in educational opportunities for the nation’s children.

Mariama Chipkaou, Secretary General of SNEN in Niger, spoke of the difficulties in countries with a multiplicity of education unions. While some leaders struggle to unite teacher unions under a single banner, she described how it is all too easy for governments to undermine these efforts and manipulate one union against the others. The experience in Niger illustrates the importance of unity, she said.

Anders Bondo Christensen, Chairman of the Danish Teachers’ Union, described how even though there are many teachers’ organisations in Denmark, they have created structures and coalitions to cooperate on collective bargaining and policy development. If problems arise, they are resolved through discussion based on shared union values.

Roustan Job, President of the Caribbean Union of Teachers, described how the teacher unions co-operate on youth training programs and solidarity work. He also explored the practical role of educators, especially after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, where Caribbean teachers worked together to help victims of the disaster.

The session pressed stronger collaborative working, for research evidence and for sustained dialogue.