Education International
Education International

Germany: Unions call for policy change on economic crisis

published 31 January 2012 updated 10 February 2012

One of EI’s affiliates in Germany, the Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft (GEW), together with unions inside the German Trade Union Federation (DGB), has taken a strong stance on the crisis in Europe, calling for a clear signal for a change of policy.

“The German trade unions unanimously call for a definite change of policy in Europe,” according to a declaration sent to EI by GEW President Ulrich Thöne. “We need a clear signal to make public budgets in Europe effective and democracy capable of acting. Together, unions within DGB developed a strategy to lead Europe out of the crisis. We focused on prosperity for all, we want growth and a redistribution of wealth.” He said that Europe’s public budgets must be efficient, so that governments are able to take action and influence economic and social conditions.

At EI’s 6th World Congress held last year in South Africa, delegates adopted a Resolution on the Sustained Funding of Public Education in the midst of the Economic Crisis. It recommended that pressure be exerted “on governments, public authorities and international institutions to curb the proliferation of preferential fiscal regimes, tax haven countries and offshore financial centres – in order to increase the financial resources necessary to maintain all public services, including the appropriate long-term funding of quality public education”.

Thöne supports increased taxes on high incomes and assets. This will ensure those responsible for the financial crisis, and who previously benefitted from low tax rates, pay their fair share in the recovery.

“Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s policy will lead Europe to a financial and economic disaster,” said Thöne. “A big part of Germany’s wealth is due to other countries’ debts. This is why Germany is not only responsible for the reasons, but also for finding solutions, to the monetary and financial crisis.”

Recovery, while maintaining sustainable, sound economic roots, “requires a long-term programme, including investments in sustainable industries and services” he said. “Moreover, expenditures in educational facilities and their quality must be increased considerably all over Europe.

“The crisis is not just an economic threat: a split in Europe would challenge its longstanding self-conception as a peaceful merging process”. This explains why “the German government’s policy of patronising others, and claiming the German way is the right one, is disastrous. It destroys the perspective of a social and democratic Europe, which must be at the very core of our joint policy.”

The EI Congress Resolution declared that “publicly funded, autonomous and democratically accountable education is part of the long-term solution to any economic downturn, as an effective and well-funded education system ensures the future success, wellbeing and employability of the next generation”.

The resolution further mandated the Executive Board to “seek a commitment from all governments that their education sector and the public service sector would be insulated from the impact of such financial crises, and reinforce efforts globally towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and Education for All Goals.”

It called on “member organisations at the national, regional and international levels, to step up the campaign, in collaboration with parents, students and education communities and the wider civil society, in support of quality, accessible, free, publicly-funded education, and to promote education as a public good and a human right”.