Message from ETUCE European Director

18 March 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.

As teachers and education personnel across Europe grapple with the COVID-19 outbreak, we send a message of solidarity and support to education trade unions.

The COVID 19 outbreak is a public health crisis quite different than anything Europe has faced for many years. As European Director of ETUCE, the trade union family representing millions of education staff across Europe, I would like to send a message of solidarity to our member organisations.

As you see, I’m speaking to you from home. The ETUCE premises are closed as part of Belgium’s response to the epidemic. We had to cancel or postpone some meetings, but the ETUCE Secretariat team continue to work from home. We are available to support you in any way we can.

In these anxious days, the ETUCE stands with member organisations across Europe and the millions of workers they represent. The situation is different in every country, but education professionals have a vital role to play and we will face this challenge together. The kind of solidarity that ETUCE is built on is exactly what we need right now.

We will also need to stand together in the weeks and months ahead. It is impossible to predict how the COVID-19 crisis will play out over the coming year, and what the impact will be for our lives, our societies and our economies. But this crisis has made it clear that European governments must not repeat the mistakes of austerity. We cannot have another decade of systemic underinvestment. Cuts in public services like education will not be the solution, no matter what it takes to get through this. These services, their workers and the citizens who depend on them must not be the next victims of COVID-19, and the ETUCE family will make sure the world knows it!

Education institutions and their workers are caught in the middle of this worrying and fast-changing crisis. Those still at work are trying to keep themselves and their students safe in an environment where it is difficult to control contagion. But in many countries schools, universities and other education institutions are closed or cancelling lessons.

This situation could have a major impact on vulnerable young people and their families. Online or self-managed learning are not a solution for everyone, and some depend on schools for social support or a daily hot meal.

Teachers and education personnel will also face tough times. Staff are often having to adapt quickly to new ways of working and interacting with students. Of course, they will do everything they can to support their students, but this cannot mean a total breakdown of their salaries and working conditions.

Through all this, education trade unions are doing excellent work. They are keeping their members informed, providing practical advice and making sure that governments consider the impact of any measures on people who work in education. In many countries they are directly involved in planning the response measures in the education sector.

I wish ETUCE member organisations strength in the coming weeks and thank them for all they do to support teachers and education personnel across Europe.