The Netherlands: Strike action to protect quality primary education

Dutch educators are on strike today (12 December), demanding decent salaries and a normal workload. They are also urging the government to clearly and firmly address burn out and a shortage in teachers in primary education.

Education International’s affiliate, the Algemene Onderwijsbond (AOb), has joined other trade unions, i.e. CNV Education, FNV Government, and FvOv, as well as the Front for primary education (PO-front), along with action groups, employers’ organisations, and parents’ organisations, in calling for a strike action by teaching staff in primary education on 12 December.

Participating unions are firmly reminding The Netherlands’ government that primary education offers children the basis for their participation in Dutch society. Quality of education only exists if there are sufficient numbers of qualified teachers, but there is a serious shortage of teachers in the country.

Demands

The PO-front demands a fair salary and a reduction in work pressure, urging politicians to:

• Quickly take a meaningful first step by increasing schools’ staff budgets, thereby increasing the salaries of teachers in primary education. The joint parties demand a fair and just salary that is comparable to the salary of teachers in secondary education.

• Announce follow-up steps to the personnel budget increases that will enable further salary progressions and increase transfer opportunities in primary and special education.

• Take extra financial measures to curb work pressure for teachers, so that teams in schools can tackle the workload together. This could be achieved, for example, by providing more educational support staff, allowing more time to prepare lessons, fewer administrative burdens, and smaller classes.

Regional action

While there will be no mobilisation nationally, each organisation will be active regionally. The AOb members are participating in a multitude of regional events, with a high participation rate anticipated. The AOb expects a similar reaction to the strike held on 5 October to coincide with World Teachers’ Day. This was the most successful strike in the Netherlands ever, with 60,000 people attending the demonstration in Holland’s capital city, The Hague. More than 90 per cent of all primary schools were closed for the day.

After a petition and initial  actions in June, €270 million was promised by the leader of the Labour Party in the outgoing cabinet. However, this was just a small fraction of the €1.4 billion needed to close the salary gap and reduce the workload for teachers, the AOb stressed.

One day before the PO-front’s strike on 5 October, word leaked out that and additional €5 million would be available for workload reduction. The AOb noted that this move was probably meant to keep the strikers at home – but it didn’t work.

When, finally, the new cabinet was in place and the State budget published, the €270 million were still mentioned, but it was announced that this money would be linked to the unions’ approval of reductions in teachers’ unemployment benefits.

The PO-front then organised a meeting with Arie Slob, the new Minister of Education, himself a former teacher, who expressed his understanding of the situation but also said that no funding was available.

In the meantime, trade unions received overwhelming approval from their members to strike again, leading to the new strike on 12 December.

Follow the diverse actions on 12 December via Twitter and #POinactie.

More information available in Dutch here

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