Education International
Education International

Successful ETUCE meeting with MEPs

published 30 March 2012 updated 3 April 2012

The Committee of EI European region, the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE), met with Ole Christensen and Alejandro Cercas, members of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats from the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs at the European Parliament, together with three more MEPs.

The union delegation presented the results of a survey on the impact of the crisis on education and urged the European Parliament to adopt a resolution on this topic.

ETUCE President Ronnie Smith told the MEPs that austerity measures are more a killer than a cure to the crisis. “The economic shock affecting the economy affects education, as well as the other publicly funded services,” he said. “Beyond that, it is widely accepted that education is part of the path leading out of the crisis. Our primary concern is to maintain an appropriate level of financing for education, and a more sensible social approach to the crisis.”

Cuts have consequences

Presenting the ETUCE survey outcomes, ETUCE Director Martin Rømer said he regretted the considerable difference between the official policy of the Commission and what governments do and decide at European level and at home.

The consequences of cuts in education include increased working hours for educators, dismissal of teachers, merger or closure of schools, and difficulties in recruiting and retaining teachers, he said.

Noting there are ideological reasons rather than economic reasons to cuts in education, Rømer talked about a “vicious circle”, with austerity measures leading to less income from taxes, lower public spending, and increased cuts in education.

He called on the European Parliament “to come up with a resolution underlining the necessity of protecting education as one of the important tools to get out of the economic crisis”.

Gain support

The 45-strong trade union delegation then had the opportunity to put questions to the MEPs.

“We are not able to solve the crisis issues at the European Parliament, but what we can do is focus of some of them,” answered Ole Christensen. “If we can work with citizens, students, national trade unions, we have a great opportunity to get media attention and public support.”

He agreed that social dialogue is very important: “How can such austerity measures be implemented without social dialogue? We suggest that the Commission motivate employers and employees to cooperate.”

Education as investment

On youth unemployment, he indicated that employers he met acknowledged it bears an economic cost, and “the most important thing for the future is education, education and education!”

“Education should be free of the crisis, and considered an investment, but the leading European Troika insisted austerity measures have to be implemented,” he said.

MEP Alejandro Cercas promised: “We will try to find a way to come up with a resolution, finding colleagues of the right we can cooperate with. It is important we have the survey and can ask: don’t you think it is a problem for the future? Public education is not a market value. It is important to fight this battle now, important for our children.”

Crisis of values

He insisted the current crisis is more a crisis of values than an economic crisis, and strongly highlighted the idea of solidarity.

“Citizens throughout Europe want solidarity, through public education systems. We are destroying the tools of solidarity between regions, people, and countries. It is more important than ever to show an alternative.”

The meeting concluded by agreeing that further contact between ETUCE and the Parliament should continue to establish a “coalition to protect public education” and find ways of getting a resolution through the Parliament.

To learn more about the survey and the ETUCE action plan against the economic crisis, please click here