2016 ETUCE Conference: Susan Flocken Speech


Dear President,
Dear colleagues,
Dear Susan,
Dear Fred,
Dear distinguished guests,

I am pleased and honoured to present the work programme for 2017 to 2020.
Let me thank you: the ETUCE Committee, the ETUCE Bureau, the member organisations and you,
Fred, for your trust, confidence and the support for me as the new ETUCE European Director.
You surely can all imagine how thrilled I am to take up my new duties
I look forward to continue working with all of you in my new capacity as we develop effective
strategies and actively engage in setting the priorities for education and for education trade
unions in Europe with a view to support the work at national, regional and local level in the best

We just received the detailed report from Martin on the outcome, achievements and progress
made in the past four years. And I must say, these results are indeed impressive and it still makes
me proud having contributed to this tremendous work already as a Policy Coordinator.
It is indeed an enormous piece of work and we have been adding more depth and detail on every
occasion. This report is and future reports will be vast and comprehensive because you, the
education trade unions in Europe, have invested so much time and effort to make things happen,
often in difficult conditions.

Let’s focus on the years to come!

The entire education sector, teachers and other education personnel in many European countries
face growing challenges from public authorities and private companies who see the education
sector as a market. Neo-liberal and business -driven ideology approaches in education lead to
privatisation and commercialisation of education. This deeply affects the teaching and learning
environment and impacts on education trade unions and their members, Indeed, many member
organisations are confronted with the adoption of short-sighted “reforms” within the diverse
education systems in Europe with little or no participation from teachers or education trade
That is why it remains a strategic imperative for us to keep at all times an eye on these
worrying trends and to effectively address these challenges already at an early stage by
intervening with European and global institutions, for example in the European Semester

We must continue to identify, denounce and fight the lingering effects of the economic crisis,
austerity measures and the increasing search for private investment in education and in
education funding.
At the same time that private investment is being lured into education, corporate taxes are being
reduced and avoided. Let us be clear. The most effective private-public partnership comes from
business paying their fair share of taxes to support education and other public services.

Together with EI, the European Trade Union Confederation and other European Trade Union
Federations we need to promote alternatives to austerity including strong demands for public
investment in quality education and tax justice to provide the means and the public well for these

In the area of trade and education we need to continue advocating for removing education and
other public services from the scope of trade and education agreements. Public policy should be
made openly through transparent and public processes and not creep through the back door of
trade and investment agreements.
With the Council of Ministers signing CETA, it is vital that we examine the effects, including
dangers of all trade and investment agreements on education and move quickly to generate a
real discussion and to create effective social dialogue in this area. An example of a new area that will
affect us is investment regulations and digital trade or e-learning.

Indeed, in our fast changing world, new technologies play an ever more important role. It is up
to teachers and education trade unions to shape the use of these tools, to ensure they contribute
to quality education and respect the autonomy of teachers and that they are used to sustainably
narrow the gaps in society with a view to provide access to education for all.
We all know that it is not due to the mere application of ICT in education that students become
better learners and ICT savvy. The purpose of education remains that of preparing students for
life, beyond labour market needs and short-sighted skills demands.

What we need in education is:
- more and sustainable public investment to allow for healthy and safe working and learning environments,
- quality initial teacher training and continuous professional development to enable teachers, school leaders and other education personnel to help students develop these life skills and the ability to think critically and become active, responsible and democratic citizens,
– These are the skills so badly needed in our present world and in future.

Today, more than ever, Europe needs an active and responsible young generation to overcome
the existing common stereotypes based on gender, age, religion, ethnic origin or social-economic
background. With wars and turmoil on the borders of Europe, in the Middle-East and Africa and
the growing number of natural disasters caused by climate change, Europe, and in particular the
European Union has experienced an immense influx of migrants and refugees. It is appalling and
shaming that political leaders and governments are failing to stand up to their responsibility and
to provide the humanitarian support and shelter for those people seeking protection on the
shores, borders and within the European Union. In many countries, teachers, school leaders and
education trade unions are doing tremendous work to welcome migrants and refugees in
schools, colleges and universities, making them feel at home in a safe and healthy environment.
It is incomprehensible that in some of these countries at the same time, quality and public
education is severely undermined by budget cuts that governments put in place to meet deficit
targets. All this, is a clear sign how little many politicians value education and how they misjudge
the importance of education. However, we know - and we need to efficiently convey this message
at all levels – that quality education for all is THE solution to ensure sustainable growth and
innovation for Europe’s future.

This leads me to one particular country in our region, where we are witnessing drastic measures
being put in place against teachers, education personnel and public services in general, a country
in which academic freedom, trust, trade union and human rights have been under severe threat.
You will have guessed by now that I am speaking of Turkey.
What kind of a message and legacy are we passing onto our children if we do not stand up for
human rights, the freedom of expression and speech? We, as education trade unions have the
key to integration and inclusion and peace. Education, as it was set out at the EI Migration
Conference in Stockholm, two weeks ago, Education is Power. Let us use this power to express
our outrage - and our solidarity and firm support with the colleagues in countries experiencing
undemocratic and inhuman acts against the integrity of the teaching profession and the core
values of trade unions and fundamental human rights.

As images of war, destruction and violence reach us and we are encouraged to believe
that Europe supposedly is being “swamped” by migrants and refugees, right-wing, populist and
extremist movements are gaining ground. Colleagues, we must not sacrifice students, society,or democracy to these dangerous currents! Let us not nurture the ground on which these trends dwell
and grow! Let us stand up against them!

The attacks in Paris, Brussels and in several other places in the world have shown, these ideology-
lead acts not only bring on violence and repression, they also seed further violence, suspicion
and hatred. We see how some politicians fan the flames of fear against diversity. We see many
voters legitimately concerned about injustice, fed up with the status quo, and tired of being
neglected, ignored and taken for granted lured into believing that any change is better than
business as usual.
This has led to the devastating outcomes of the Brexit vote in Europe and the equivalent
expression of frustration and rejection of the mainstream establishment in the election of the
US. The solution will not come from demonising Brexit or Trump voters, but in providing real and
workable alternatives to the empty and soon to be broken promises of those who harvested their

Trade unions in all sectors have long since pointed out that it is naïve to assume that neoliberal
policies and cuts in public budgets could lead Europe out of the crisis. It is not by closing their
eyes and ears to the needs of citizens, to the voice of workers and their unions that politicians
will achieve, but by taking the concerns of citizens serious and by effectively addressing the
decline of social standards and of working and living conditions.
Education trade unions in Europe witness the gradual erosion of a ‘social Europe’ in decreasing
quantity and quality of social dialogue. Many countries have experienced a growing
unemployment rate affecting in particular the young and less qualified.
We need to continue working even more intensively towards the strengthening and
improvement of social dialogue and collective bargaining in education at national level.
At European level, it is important to continuously strengthen the ties with the national
level of education sectoral social dialogue and to advance the work with EFEE, the European
Federation of Education Employers, with a view to enhance the representativeness of employers
at national and European level.
After all, the benefits of the European Sectoral Social Dialogue for Education can help to
improve the social dialogue in countries outside the EU/EFTA.

Too often governments and education authorities are ignoring the voice of teachers and their
unions, implementing decisions and reforms to their gusto without consulting the social partners.
As a consequence, in the past years, the call for solidarity and demands for solidarity letters from
ETUCE member organisations have steadily increased. This is a sign that there is a clear need to
continue to further step up our efforts. In the EU, the President of the European Commission,
Jean-Claude Juncker, has committed to re-launch the social dialogue. Let us use this
commitment, let the challenges become opportunities for trade unions to grow, instill change
and promote the interests of the teaching profession. Let us continue working towards effective
and meaningful social dialogue and collective bargaining.

Let us stand firmly together in solidarity to oppose the challenges and pressure that education
trade unions in Europa are exposed to through governments’ neo-liberal policies!

Let us work together to enhance the teaching profession and support education trade unions
their leaders, teachers, academics and other education personnel in being the bearers of
light in a society that is becoming increasingly hostile to inclusion, integration, tolerance and
active democratic citizenship!

Let us be the inspiration for those working in and for education, let us be the unified, powerful
and forward-looking voice in Europe for quality education and the teaching profession!

Let us be the beacon for those we represent, for those we work with and those we seek influence with!
Let us close ranks and grow together as one strong European organisation where all member organisations pull in the same direction. Be they from the North, the East, the South or the West of Europe. Be they in or outside the European Union.
Yet it is only together – and I strongly believe in this – that we can successfully protect and shield what we hold in common and what we stand for. This is education!

I look forward to work with you, the member organisations and affiliates, the
President, Vice-Presidents and Committee members that are to be elected at this Conference as
well as the colleagues from ETUCE and EI to ensure the successful implementation of the
programme in the coming four years.

Conference, I commend the work programme for your adoption.