Romania: Success in the negotiations for a vaccination agreement

01 December 2021

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.

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Romanian education trade unions successfully defended education personnel against a unilateral governmental decision threatening the health, safety and working conditions of teachers and other education personnel. Indeed, as the Romanian government unilaterally decided that teachers must administer a COVID-19 saliva tests on all their students, twice per week, education trade unions strongly opposed this measure and took decisive actions through an online protest. The action resulted in thousands of education personnel submitting online petitions to the Minister of Health, managing to temporarily block the ministry’s server.

Romanian education trade unions called on the Ministry of education to withdraw the decision by raising several arguments:

  • Considering that Romania has schools with up to 2500 students, the testing would be extremely time-consuming to the detriment of education activities.
  • Teachers are not medical professionals trained in the administering of tests and handling of medical waste.
  • Apart from the inherent danger of the practice, it is absolutely inappropriate as large-scale medical tasks are not part of teachers contracts or training.
  • Teachers are often not provided with personal protective equipment, exposing them to great danger when performing tests.
  • The combination of canteen closures and the requirement to not drink water for one hour prior to the testing implicitly forces students to fast throughout the school day.

The collective and organised effort proved fruitful, as education trade unions managed on 18 and 19 November 2021 to achieve decisions with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health on measures that are more practicable.

Following a round of tough negotiations, it has been decided that the COVID-19 tests will be performed at home by the parents, with the testing material and instructions handed out by an appointed teacher. The testing will be performed twice a week, and parents will inform the teacher about each positive or negative result. Furthermore, all schools in Romania can remain open if at least 60% of employees are vaccinated or if the level of contamination in the local region is below three infections per thousand inhabitants.

Commenting on this, ETUCE European Director, Susan Flocked said "This success story reveals once again three fundamental truths about the pandemic response in the education sector. Firstly, governmental decision-making is still informed by a strong disconnection between theory and practice. Secondly, lacking consultation with education trade unions inevitably leads to inefficient and unsustainable solutions. And lastly, well organised collective action does make a decisive difference. ETUCE will therefore continue to stand with its member organisations and continue advocating for decent working conditions and protection of health and safety of teachers and other education personnel across the European region."