Belgium: Education is essential! Truly?

10 February 2022

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.

Tomorrow in Belgium, February 10 will be a strike day in education. ETUCE supports its member organisations which are part of the French-speaking trade union common front for education extended to administrative staff, workers and university staff, taking action this Thursday to denounce the lack of recognition and revaluation of their professions.

Unions call for respect for workers in the education sector and recall that for the past two years, in the midst of the COVID crisis, education staff and all sector representatives have shown exemplary adaptability to the difficulties faced, such as hybrid teaching, wearing a mask, difficulty in ventilating the premises, quarantines, abundance of official communications on COVID to be applied immediately, absence of students, sometimes difficult relations with parents, disinfection of premises, unsuitable equipment, possibility of teleworking for administrative staff applied in a heterogeneous way.

Although politicians in Belgium insist that education is an essential sector, the ongoing sectoral negotiation process has not produced a proposal deemed sufficient at the current stage:

  • At present, no concrete proposal has been made in response to the list of demands that the unions submitted in April;
  • No planning is established concerning the many points of the past agreements obtained and not carried out so far. The regional government of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation wishes to extend the period of sectoral negotiations from 2 to 4 years under the pretext of the current difficult conditions (COVID).

According to our member organisations, this is a break in the cycle of biannual negotiations and a violation of the law.

The unions are asking that the bulk amount (32 million euros) be devoted to the increase of the fixed part of the end-of-year bonus, which would allow to catch up with salaries and tackle previous savings measures.

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Teaching staff, who are constantly under pressure, are confronted with working conditions that are increasingly deteriorating with the health crisis, as well as with contemptuous remarks, from certain politicians with regard to education personnel. In addition, the shortage of teachers is no longer to be demonstrated, but political considerations do not push young people to turn to this profession or to stay in it.

“On Thursday, together with our member organisations in Belgium, ETUCE will reaffirm that not only is this sector essential, but it is a sector in which we must invest because the quality of education is one of the key ways out of the crisis that we will have to face together," said Susan Flocken, ETUCE European Director.

Politicians have talked enough, they must now put their words into action!


Read the unions' common front's press release