Remote but not far away: Italy’s FLC-CGIL takes trade union organising online

Information current: 20 April 2020

The COVID 19 outbreak is a public health crisis quite different than anything Europe has faced for many years. As education personnel and their trade unions grapple with the outbreak, we are supporting and informing member organisations in any way we can.

In the era of COVID-19 and social distancing, education trade unions are using online tools to strengthen the bonds and solidarity on which our movement is built. In Italy, FLC-CGIL is organising around the professional voice of teachers and education workers, ensuring that their perspectives are heard. Through an online petition to support its new Manifesto, FLC-CGIL is defending the irreplaceable importance of the teacher-student relationship at the heart of the education system.

ETUCE member organisation FLC-CGIL has launched an online petition to gather support for their Manifesto for Inclusive Education (pdf). The Manifesto is aimed at teachers, other education personnel and experts, and the whole school community. It offers constructive proposals which would ensure that the central relationship between teachers and students is not overshadowed during periods of online and distance teaching.

The epidemic, says FLC-CGIL, has forced schools into an unprecedented situation where they must abandon, albeit temporarily, their basic essence: sociability, sharing, and the daily interaction of pupils and students. It has made classroom teachers into "distance teachers", a new challenge which education personnel are facing with enormous commitment and professionalism. However, commitment is not enough to bridge the gap between teachers and students, and distance teaching is showing its limits. It cannot replace the educational relationship established in the classroom and risks accentuating inequalities and penalising more vulnerable students. Therefore, FLC-CGIL argues, the current situation of distance teaching should itself be understood as an emergency.

Launching the Manifesto, FLC-CGIL General Secretary Francesco Sinopoli said: “We ask all experts on pedagogy, psychology, sociology and philosophy to sign our Manifesto – but above all teachers and parents. We must ensure that teaching continues to be force for progress and the development of knowledge in our country. The COVID-19 crisis cannot become an excuse to further hand education over to profit-making market operations which entrench and increase inequality."

At times of confinement, education trade unions’ use of online tools is proving a useful way to make the majority opinions in the school community visible. This Manifesto and accompanying petition will be delivered to the Minister of Education. They will serve as a reminder that the teaching and learning needs of the new generation must remain at the centre of education despite remote schooling.

Graziamaria Pistorino, FLC-CGIL National Secretary, adds: “As FLC-CGIL, we deemed it important to speak to the professionalism of the teacher, with emphasis on their pedagogical approach and expertise. In this process, we have received the support of professional associations and authoritative pedagogists. This emergency requires urgent action, but it means we cannot to speak to colleagues in person, as we used to do, during assemblies or other gatherings. Therefore, today more than ever, it is necessary to find new ways to strengthen our movement and defend our values.”

Image modified by Bryn Watkins from an original by Pietro Luca Cassarino on Flickr, used and free for reuse under licence Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.