Education Trade Unions – agents of democracy and inclusiveness in times of war and other crises


How to teach democratic citizenship in times of crises? What are teachers’ challenges regarding inclusive education in the context of a growing number of migrants and refugees? How does digitalisation affect equality?  These were some of the topics addressed at this year’s ETUCE’s Standing Committee for Equality. 

On 14-15 February 2023, more than 40 education trade union equality experts from across Europe came together in Brussels to share and exchange their ideas on advocating for equality in education. The consultative body to the ETUCE Committee aims to promote equality, inclusion, diversity and good practices in education and training systems and in education trade unions across Europe.  On this Valentine's Day, the Standing Committee for Equality was a special opportunity for all participants to share and celebrate their love for diversity, peace, democracy, gender equality, freedom of expression, towards all people. 

In the context of different societal crises, such as the energy crisis, inflation, the COVID-19 pandemic, environmental concerns and the war in Ukraine and in light of increasing digitalisation, this year’s meeting, led by its Chair Rossella Benedetti, marked the resolute will of its members to lead the pathway for change in making quality education accessible to all.  The focal point of this Committee was to discuss the ways in which education trade unions are agents of democracy and inclusiveness in times of crises. Indeed, this edition of the Standing Committee for Equality illustrated not only the challenges, obstacles and issues which arise from crises, but also the crucial role teachers play and how trade union members, by their actions, are true agents of change in today’s society.

In panel discussions animated by Alexandra Cornea (Vice Chair of the Committee) and Nadine Molloy (past president of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association), participants were invited to exchange their opinions and experience on some of the main priorities set out in the ETUCE Action Plan on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. The equality experts highlighted how important meaningful social dialogue is as well as the need for further governmental support for education and the continuous fight for teachers’ and other education personnel’s voices to be heard.  

Member organisations’ representatives gained knowledge on what ETUCE has recently been working on in the area of equality in education, such as creating the ETUCE Ukraine solidarity hub, solidarity missions, most recently to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the statement on the impact of the energy crisis on the education system to defend teachers' rights in these difficult times, as well as the EFEE-ETUCE Statement on enhancing and promoting gender equality in and through education. Amongst the initiatives presented, featured ETUC’s project “New Frontiers for Collective Bargaining - Equal Pay”, and the ongoing “Tackling violence and harassment against women at work”.

Many of ETUCE member organisations initiatives are available on ETUCE’s Online Database of Good Practices. Indeed, despite the exacerbation of inequalities in the world due to the current multiplicity of crises, education trade unions’ work, solidarity and resilience continue to prevail.