2020 ETUCE Conference – Day 1


On 1 December 2020, President, Christine Blower, opened the ETUCE quadrennial Conference pointing out that this year has been an extraordinary and challenging year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the first time in ETUCE’s history, the Conference was organised online.  

In his welcome speech, David Edwards, Education International’s General Secretary highlighted democracy and solidarity as the two most important values in these times of global pandemic. His speech was followed by a supportive audio message from Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, at the European Commission in which she underlined how much the work of teachers in Europe is crucial and dear to her heart. She mentioned the resilience shown by the teachers during this crisis and emphasised that teachers should have both the confidence and the competence to evolve in schools’ environments where everyone feels valued and supported. Empowering teachers being at the centre of the European agenda, she also mentioned the diverse programmes on education currently conducted by the European Union.

Stefaan Hermans, Director for Policy Strategy and Evaluation for the Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture from the European Commission spoke about the long-standing exchange with ETUCE and showcased the European Education Area and the EU Digital Education Plan. Mister Hermans stressed that none if these initiatives will succeed without the professionalism of teachers, schools and trainers. He mentioned his hope to see a positive change in the field of education and training, and that to achieve it, we need the contribution of all stakeholders. He concluded by affirming the European Commission wished to continue their collaboration with ETUCE.

ETUCE Director, Susan Flocken, introduced the ETUCE Activity Report (2016– 2020): “This year has shown how important social dialogue and the full involvement of trade unions is to ensure the necessary infrastructure and health and safety concepts in schools. We took the lead in demanding stronger support and commitment from education authorities to raise the status of the teaching profession and to recognise the centrality of this profession for our society.” She also mentioned: “We have had an increasing number of calls for solidarity from member organisations to support their negotiations and campaign for freedom, trade union rights and professional autonomy. I am happy to say that ETUCE together with its member organisations has proven its persistent solidarity to colleagues in the region and beyond in fighting neo-liberal and anti-trade union actions from authorities.” She concluded by thanking everybody. “Without you ETUCE would not be where it is today.”

In her introduction of the Conference Theme and associated resolution, the ETUCE President, Christine Blower declared that a different world had to be created yet and that the role of education trade unions was to be at the front line to improve education and to face the many challenges lying ahead: “The pandemic has in so many places pointed up and exacerbated inequality. Poverty, lack of family resources has always played into difficulties with education but the pandemic has widened the gap between the haves and the have nots to a chasm. This, colleagues, is why we must pursue equality and social justice. And this, colleagues, is why we are trade unionists.”

Odile Cordelier from SNES-FSU France, ETUCE Vice-President seconded the main conference resolution. She drew attention to the fact that it was going to enable prioritising the topics covered in the ETUCE Work Programme during the next mandate and underlined that in the current context of COVID pandemic, the topics that should be prioritised are digitalisation of education, the weakening of social dialogue mechanisms in many countries and the lack of public investment in education. She closed her speech by reminding that the European region is one of EI’s most active regions in terms of union actions and solidarity between the different trade unions.

Andreas Keller from GEW Germany, ETUCE Vice-President spoke about the impact of COVID-19 on the working conditions of teachers and the lack of support from governments to their work. He affirmed that, to overcome the crisis, an education sector reform was necessary.

Conference delegates adopted the main resolution as amended.

One of the highlights of the day was, without doubt, the election of the ETUCE President and Vice-Presidents. Larry Flanagan from Educational Institute of Scotland was elected new ETUCE President. Addressing the Conference, he spoke about the devotion of teachers in the current COVID-19 context and thanked the conference delegates on his election. He also thanked Christine Blower for her work during the past eight years. The six Vice-Presidents of this past term of office were re-confirmed in their positions for the coming term of office: Odile Cordelier from SNES-FSU France, Andreas Keller from GEW Germany, Trudy Kerperien from AOb The Netherlands, Dorte Lange from DLF Denmark, Galina Merkulova from ESEUR Russia and Branimir Strukelj from ESTUS Slovenia. ETUCE and its member organisations congratulates the members of the ETUCE Bureau on their election and wishes them success for the upcoming term of office.