ETUCE Special Conference 2018 kicks-off discussions on trade union renewal and education for democracy


On 27 November 2018, in Athens, Greece, ETUCE President Christine Blower opened the quadrennial special conference of the ETUCE, the European Region of Education International (EI). A welcome speech was given by the presidents of the DOE and OLME, ahead of the address to the ETUCE Special Conference by David Edwards, General Secretary, who welcomed delegates and spoke of some major global challenges including the growing influence of private and corporate actors in education, the rise of extremisms and the erosion of rights. He concluded on the key role of teachers in meeting global challenges and in promoting democratic values.

ETUCE European Director Susan Flocken framed the Special Conference theme and associated resolutions, in light of the resolutions adopted by the ETUCE Conference in 2016 and looking at the future. While expectations on education are growing, investment in education is still lagging behind and privatisation and commercialisation trends are threatening education as a public good and a human right. With social dialogue still under pressure across many European countries, deteriorating institutional and social legitimacy and attacks to trade union rights, including the right to organise and collective bargaining, education trade unions are discussing actions and strategies to strengthen their organising and servicing efforts towards teachers and other education personnel, including the most-marginalised and under-represented. In this context, ETUCE is mobilising all its member organisations under the umbrella of a new Europe-wide campaign “Shape the future of Europe with teachers”.

The key note speech by professor Howard Stevenson, University of Nottingham on ‘Education unions and trade union renewal: building capacity to support effective social dialogue’ kicked off an intense plenary discussion on how to strengthen trade union renewal efforts at times of challenges around de-professionalisation, work intensification, closure of public and democratic spaces, privatisation and wider societal challenges. Strong views on the need to organise and to recruit new members, capacity building actions and strategies to undertake to meet the needs of teachers and other education personnel, to build the collective power of unions and to reinforce solidarity in the workplace and internationally were expressed in discussions around two resolutions on the conference theme: ‘Shaping the future of Europe: The Role of Education Trade Unions’ and ‘Involving teachers in all decisions affecting the profession and the education system’.

Laying the ground to discuss the resolution on ‘Setting the priorities to develop the ETUCE Action Plan for Equality’ and on ‘Re-claiming dialogue, gathering and deliberation. Towards an ecology of participatory school practices’, Mr Sjur Bergan, Council of Europe, addressed the audience with a presentation on ‘Educating for democracy and social inclusion’.

The first day closed with the ceremony for the ‘Kounka Damianova Award[1]’, during which, two ETUCE union members Maia Kobakhidze (ESFTUG-Georgia) and Zulkhiya Nozakova (TUESRT-Tajikistan) were awarded for their outstanding engagement in trade union work in the field of education and the promotion of equality. It was the first presentation of the Kounka Damianova Award.

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To know more about the event, visit the ETUCE Special Conference website

[1] The award is named after Ms. Kounka Damianova who led the International Department of the Bulgarian Teachers’ Union (SEB), ETUCE’s member organisation, for many years. Ms. Damianova unexpectedly passed away on 4 August 2015. At the time of her bereavement, she was the Chair of ETUCE’s Standing Committee for Equality and has been a Vice-President of ETUCE. Her extraordinary commitment to the work of education trade unions was a decisive contribution to the cohesion in the region.