On 27 June 2017, the second round table meeting of the European Sectoral Social Dialogue in Education (ESSDE) Capacity building project III took place in Dublin, Ireland. At this occasion, representatives of Irish education trade unions (IFUT, partner to the project, TUI, ASTI and INTO) as well as Irish employer organisations (ETBI, Donegal ETB, THEA, CPSMA, JMB, ACCSE) and representatives of ETUCE and EFEE participated in a full day of discussions on the implementation of the ESSDE work programme topic: ‘Social Partners Promoting Decent Work Places in the Education Sector’.

The chosen topic allowed Irish and European Social Partners to share their views on the current state of the national and European social  dialogue in the efforts to improve the workplace health, safety and wellbeing in education institutions. The round table meeting was structured around four thematic sessions, ranging from the assessment of the current state and challenges of social dialogue in Ireland and its link to the European Sectoral Social Dialogue in Education to a more specific display of initiatives put in place at national and European levels in order to tackle issues regarding the working environment in the education sector.

Discussions were further supported by the presentations on the European ‘relaunch’ of social dialogue made by the project expert (ICF), and the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) on the development of an On-line Interactive Risk Assessment tool intended for professionals from multiple sectors, including education, to use, as well as the intervention of a EFEE member organisation from the Ministry of Education of the Slovak Republic, providing the opportunity to develop peer learning in the field of social dialogue in education.

During the round table, proposals were put forward in order to better help teachers, trainers, school leaders and education employers face challenges in regards to factors such as stress and health and safety in schools and education institutions. The role of the economic crisis, and austerity measures that substantially stalled the process of social dialogue, was recognised by all participants, while the well-being of education workers was stamped as a pre-requisite for the effective provision of quality education to all students.

This principle was strongly endorsed by ETUCE Director Susan Flocken, who commented on the event: ‘Irish Education Trade Unions and Education Employer Organisations alike have gathered today to reaffirm their commitment in the establishment of stronger standards in the quality of the working environment in the education sector. Too often, still,’ she continued, ‘ETUCE witnesses member organisations reporting increasing deterioration of education personnel’s health and well-being. The role of the ETUCE and EFEE member organisations in voicing these issues to decision-makers at national and European levels is of utmost importance, and the Irish round table is but an inspiring example of social partners uniting for the greater good of the entire education sector, and ultimately, the quality of education delivered to students’.