Education trade unions should include the gender dimension in all discussion in social dialogue concluded the participants of the second regional seminar of the ETUCE project Social dialogue and gender equality: Empowering education trade unions to address gender equality in the teaching profession through social dialogue, which took place in Vilnius on 25-26 February 2019.

More than 30 participants, representing Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland, Romania and Serbia, had the opportunity to exchange with fellow trade unionists on pertinent matters of gender equality such as horizontal and vertical segregation in the education sector, work-life balance challenges, gender pay and pension gaps in the teaching profession and gender-based violence in the workplace through a mixture of panel discussions, presentations, working groups and practical exercises. Participants provided examples of actions undertaken within their respective unions to address gender inequality using social dialogue instruments, such as establishing a gender equality department within trade unions, organising training courses and campaigns, presenting legislative proposals  and negotiating the collective agreements that include provisions on gender equality in the education sector. Likewise, participants collaborated to come up with inspiring action plan measures, including financial incentives for early career teachers, awarding higher recognition to early childhood educators’ qualifications, the inclusion of the right to disconnect in collective agreements, raising awareness about teachers’ workload, conducting research on additional unpaid work carried out by women, and providing leadership training for women in the education sector and within education trade unions.

Based on the project’s online survey which was conducted among ETUCE members, project researcher, Inga Pavlovaite, reported that only 60% of trade unions have a department or individuals dealing specifically with gender equality issues and that just 40% indicated they had internal gender equality polices in place. A presentation of the European Context was also given by Virginija Langbakk, Director of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), who enlightened participants on the wide range of studies that EIGE conducts on topics such as teachers’ knowledge of gender equality, female participation in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), lifelong learning and teacher training, with a view to providing the European Commission with factual information so that robust decisions can be made.  She also announced that in 2019,  EIGE’s fourth Gender Equality Index would concentrate on the topic of work-life balance.

Specific challenges facing educators in the Lithuanian education system were presented by Dr. Margarita Jankauskaite, Center for Equality Advancement, and representatives of Lithuanian education trade unions FLESTU, and  LTESTU, which included a strong presence of gender stereotypes in the education and society at large, conservative attitudes of parents towards teaching about gender culture, the absence of gender equality issues in collective agreements, and the lack of confidence among Lithuanian female teachers to pursue management positions.

Concluding the workshop Rossella Benedetti, Chair of the ETUCE Standing Committee of Equality, stated: “Education trade unions speak not only for teachers but also for all European citizens as they address in their work not only the economic issues but also social cohesion, human rights, equality and cultural growth that are the basis for a healthy society. Being experts in social dialogue and founded on solidarity, education trade unions are evolving into a new form or representation that aspires for a more gender equal society and a better Europe at large”.”

The third and final seminar is to be held in Munich on 27-28 March 2019 ahead of the project’s final conference, which will take place in Bucharest on 16-17 September 2019.