Unions in Belgium and Germany join school community voices to demand careful reopening

17 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.

As governments begin to plan a phased reopening of their education systems, education trade unions across Europe are ensuring that the perspective of education personnel is considered. In Germany and francophone Belgium, education trade unions are strengthening their hand by issuing joint statements with parents’ associations who share the concern for a safe and cautious approach. The Belgian statement is also signed by the students’ committee.

The eight signatories of the Belgian statement include ETUCE member organisations CSC enseignement, FGTB-CGSP enseignement and SLFP enseignement. They stand with organisations representing parents and students to remind authorities that “education personnel come for all ages groups and include people of fragile health. Students, their parents, teachers and all the staff of education institutions are not guinea pigs! A premature restarting of lessons would risk provoking a second wave of contagion of the virus. A rushed reopening for economic reasons is simply unacceptable.”

They go on to demand that, when announcing their plans for a gradual reopening, the National Security Council issues clear guidelines on issues like transport, social distancing in the school context and psychological support for students and staff.

In Germany, ETUCE member organisations GEW and VBE have written a joint letter to the education ministers of the federal states alongside the parents’ association BER. The organisations remind the Ministers of their relevant expertise and propose to participate in developing an exit strategy that is realistic and sustainable. They also stress the risk of overwork if teachers have to work with divided class groups and insist that “children in emergency situations and pupils from socioeconomically disadvantaged families must be particularly in focus and will need additional support.”

Image by Bryn Watkins.

Get in touch

The ETUCE Secretariat sends solidarity to all teachers, academics and other education personnel and their education trade unions as they react to and tackle this unprecedented crisis. We invite ETUCE member organisations to inform the ETUCE Secretariat about the challenges you face, how you are responding, which good practices you have developed and can share with colleagues, as well as your needs for support from the ETUCE family. Contact ETUCE at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..