On 14 November 2017, in the framework of the European Sectoral Social Dialogue in Education (ESSDE) Capacity Building Project III, ETUCE and EFEE gathered with Italian social partners in education at the occasion of the fourth round table of the project. This meeting, held in Rome, Italy, brought together delegations of Italian education trade unions (UIL Scuola, partner to the project, CISL Scuola, FLC-CGIL) and employers’ organisations (ANINSEI, ENAIP FORMA) representatives. The event was the occasion to hold productive debates on the current issues and opportunities characterizing social dialogue in education in Italy, as well as the potential actions to strengthen it and further its link with social dialogue at the European level.

After eight years of stall of negotiations in the education sector, social partners now welcome positively promising signs of relaunching social dialogue to effectively support education personnel, from early careers onwards, at all levels and in all sectors of education. As the underlying issue of recruitment and retention in the teaching profession was raised, they reassessed the importance of collective bargaining in the attainment of optimal working conditions and expressed the will to re-open social partners’ negotiations to this end. Participants advocated for the provision of sufficient resources for education personnel to reach their potential to the fullest, with a specific focus on career opportunities and development.

Times of economic crisis have constrained the voice of education personnel in policy-making. However, as decades-long reforms opposed by the teaching workforce proved to be weak and even deleterious in their implementation and outcomes, participants agreed that the collective voice of teachers in the shaping of policies needs to be central, and giving a sense of agency to professionals, a condition sine qua non for quality education systems.

Social partners were supported in their discussions by experts (ICF and University of Nottingham). In an effort to foster the sharing of good practices and experiences, representatives of Dutch education trade unions (AOb) and employers’ organisations (MBO-raad) joined in the meeting, highlighting successful social dialogue examples in their country, but also sharing current challenges.

In conclusion to the meeting, Susan Flocken, ETUCE European Director and co-chair of the meeting, saluted the quality of the exchanges held during the day: “The quality and added value of the discussions of today’s round table are an encouraging step in the direction of mutual understanding and trust building. We, social partners, at all levels, share a common goal: the provision of quality education to all students”.