Education unions begin series of strikes across Flanders

The education unions ACOD Education, COC and VSOA Education will organise demonstrations on five different days in five Flemish cities in May. The strikes result from the unions' dissatisfaction with a report by a committee of experts that developed 70 proposals for the professionalisation of the teaching profession. The demonstrations will begin in Antwerp on Tuesday morning at 10:00 in Operaplein.

The ensuing strikes will take place in Ostend on Wednesday at Sint-Petrus-en-Paulusplein at 10:00., Leuven on 13 May at Martelarenplein at 10:00, Hasselt on 14 May at Molenpoortplein at 13:00 and finally Ghent on 15 May in Citadel Park at 10:00.

In Antwerp, the trade union front is anticipating a substantial turnout of at least 2,000 demonstrators. While the exact number of educational staff members participating in other locations is yet to be determined, the unions have informed that some schools will be providing emergency care, while others will resort to distance learning due to the expected teacher shortage.

Aftermath of proposals

At the request of the Flemish minister of education Ben Weyts (N-VA), the committee of experts, led by Dirk Van Damme and Paul Yperman published their proposal report in December. The education unions immediately responded critically.

ACOD Education, COC and VSOA Education dismissed the proposals as "fantasies, ill-considered measures and recipes from the past", which will not help to make education "of high quality and attractive". "For many staff members, the proposals of the Committee of Wise Men are the opposite of what is necessary. The staff members, the real experts, are once again not being heard by policymakers. With our actions, we want to give our members and anyone who wants to join them the chance to make that voice louder," the unions said.

"It is quite unprecedented that people are not striking against policy but against policy recommendations from an independent committee," says Weyts. "In this way, the strikers make every conversation impossible. You cannot say you are open to reforming the organisation of education if you then go to a standstill at the first hint of debate. What is next: striking against an idea, against an opinion?"


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