Belgium: Education on strike


The four Flemish education trade unions- ACOD- Onderwijs, COV, COC and VSOA- Onderwijs – ETUCE member organisations in Flanders, Belgium, organised a mutual strike action covering all levels of education on 20 March 2019.

It was the first general education strike in Flanders since 2001.

Nancy Libert ACOD- Onderwijs General Secretary said , “There is a teacher shortage. Teachers flee education! Young teachers deserve more employment security and to keep them on board we need decent working conditions for all teachers. Teachers should be able to focus on teaching. They are not childcare workers, psychologists, administrative employees”.

"Do we want the best doctor, or the doctor whose parents could afford the studies? I am committed to equal education opportunities. At present they are not. Parents of younger children cannot pay the school invoices. Higher education is too expensive and therefore does not grant equal access”, added Marc Borremans, ACOD- Onderwijs Deputy General Secretary.

Inclusion without resources and insufficient support is not the way to integrate children. On the contrary, they are now seen by the government as purely financial costs, which is bad. Teachers indicate that they are not trained to teach children with special needs in mainstream education. They also say that they no longer succeed in transferring the subject matter to the other students. Actually this is due to a saving that was made at the expense of the quality of education, and at the expense of the happiness of the children”, commented Jean-Luc Barbery, ACOD- Onderwijs Deputy General Secretary.

The largest strike in education in two decades is a historic sign of solidarity. It will be the undeniable responsibility of the next minister of education to make the promised career pact in education a top priority. As a result it will be the primary task of the next government to release all necessary financial resources. Bringing both these matters to a good end, is the least to be expected from the Flemish Government and thus essentially the main employer of our educational staff, but a task that it has been neglecting to this day”, stated Marnix Heyndrickx, VSOA- Onderwijs Chairman.

In her turn, Lies Van Rompaey, COV Communication Officer added, “With this strike the education trade unions in Flanders want to call on the Flemish political parties not to abandon students and education staff. Whatever party the minister of education supplies, it must already dare to take the commitment to put an end to the savings and to fully invest in education”.

The needs in primary education immediately seem to be recognised by the Flemish politicians. That's a good thing, but our teachers in primary education are waiting for a rapid implementation. Moreover, this strike was sector-wide. Teachers in secondary education also need more support and less workload. The same counts for all sectors, e.g. higher education, adult learning and others. We need more investments by the government. Our conclusion after this massive strike: there is wide demand from our teachers for more investment in education as a whole. Why? Even a child knows why!” concluded Jan Soons, COC National Secretary.