Belgium: Common front of education unions announces renewed action

published 11 October 2022 updated 25 October 2022

After three successful actions in the last school year, which clearly demonstrated the frustration and anger of education staff, the common front of education unions is asking the government of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation (FWB) to respect the commitments it has made and is organising a one-day strike in schools on 13 October to support its demands.

The demands of education staff remain more relevant than ever

Education staff at all levels and in all networks are called upon to take part in this action.

Indeed, while the common trade union front did not wish to disrupt either the end of the 2021-2022 school year or the start of the school year on 29 August, their anger and dissatisfaction are still very much present.

The unions consider that their “demands remain more relevant than ever because teaching staff have not seen any improvement in their situations”.

They recall the reforms introduced from this school year, such as the new school hours, the revision of French as a learning language system, the territorial hubs that will result in the elimination of certain jobs and the reduction of support periods for pupils in the process of integration, the personalised support that will have an impact on class sizes, pilot experiments such as replacement pools, and the implementation of new reference systems while the programmes have still not been written.

They believe that “the majority of these reforms cause a significant administrative overload... Not to mention that the teacher shortage has still not been resolved, far from it.”

Four issues

The common trade union front recalls its main demands:

  1. Reform of the provision of qualifying education. For the unions, “some adjustments have been made to alleviate the system a little, but nothing significant except for the case file that will accompany the student throughout this process and which once again creates an administrative overload for teachers. The negative effects will really be felt at the start of the school year in 2023. Today, the most immediate risk is the Walloon government's wish to move towards a regionalisation of work/study training programmes.”
  2. Class size. Class size is a priority for staff and a factor influencing not only teachers’ working conditions, but also students' learning conditions.
  3. Reform of teachers’ evaluation. The trade unions obtained a one-year postponement, “but this freeze is not enough. This project will still create an unhealthy climate in schools, yet it is supposed to lead to positive reinforcement for staff.”
  4. Management plans. The management plan is theoretically set up to empower the educational teams to work and make decisions collectively to shape the future of their school. “A nice project, but unfortunately often utopian... These management plans are often a pretext for putting unbearable pressure on educational teams. Management by results, especially if it is associated with a system of sanctions, is intolerable. It will lead to a rise in the shortage of teachers and teacher candidates will quickly abandon the profession. The administrative burden of drafting these management plans is no longer in question”, the unions explain.

CGSP-Enseignement, a member organisation of Education International and the trade union front notes that: “to this must be added the proposal for a sectoral agreement that was put to us just before the summer holidays: this proposal prioritised the demands of the organising authorities and neglected those of the trade union front. The agreement was therefore signed by all the organising authorities, but not by any trade union, which is historic.”

The union also stressed that “it seems that the Executive - of the FWB - is above all locked into the dogma of budgetary rigour advocated by neoliberalism”. He therefore asked members to ensure high levels of participation in the demonstration. “This will allow us to show the FWB government that the summer holidays, which followed decidedly lacklustre proposals, have in no way lessened the mobilisation of teaching staff!”

In the run-up to this strike day, work stoppages of less than 50 minutes are being organised as a common front from 5 to 12 October.