Towards the ETUCE Conference: Webinar on social dialogue, collective bargaining and trade union rights


This ETUCE pre-conference webinar held on 13 November 2020 embraced representatives from ETUCE member organisations for an exchange on actual trends in social dialogue on employment and education policies, collective bargaining, and respect for trade union rights across Europe.

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven how central social dialogue and collective bargaining mechanisms are to develop education policies and employment protection agreements that are effective and correspond to the needs on the ground. Despite the many years in which they have been deteriorated, these mechanisms help preventing the disruption caused by the temporary school closures from translating into an even bigger crisis and ensure the representation of the voice of teachers and other education personnel.

Trust, mutual understanding, tools and space to negotiate are pre-conditions to achieve outcomes that are fairly shared. Opening the webinar, ETUCE President, Christine Blower, deplored that during the last decade, unilateral legislative acts attempting to commodify education and work have gone hand in hand with attempts to decentralise collective bargaining and undermine wage policies. Branimir Strukelj, ETUCE Vice-President underlined how: “such trends have made it even harder for education trade unions to secure broad gains through sectoral agreements.” and that “all teachers and education personnel have experienced changes in their world of work and started feeling the effects on their profession, working conditions and employment quality.”

As a mission-oriented profession, issues around pedagogical autonomy and the freedom to choose how to teach are as important as industrial needs of teachers and other education professionals. Heljä Misukka, from the Finnish OAJ, enriched the debate on gaps and needs for social dialogue capacity building with insights on her trade union’s role in shaping the new education curricula and reform in Finland.

John MacGabhann, TUI outlined that in Ireland, a country that had been severely affected by the 2008 economic crisis and the subsequent austerity in public spending, the trade unions had been able to handle the forecasted layoffs in education by securing three collective agreements to save teachers’ employments. Irina Afanasyeva from the Trade Union of Education and Science Workers of Kyrgyzstan (TUESWK) explained how current draft legislation on trade unions was dangerously putting sectoral social dialogue at risk and aiming to solely authorise the Confederation of Trade Unions of the Kyrgyz Republic to represent employees affiliated to trade unions and to enter into social dialogue with the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic.

Participants to the webinar further exchanged on strategies, actions and tools for effective social dialogue and collective bargaining. They explored the possibilities for more strategic interventions and actions conducted in solidarity across the European region in support of capacity building initiatives.

For more information on the workshop:

Agenda: ENFRRU.

Background document: ENFRRU.