At its fifth national congress, the Union of Education Norway called on the government to open its arms to refugees, and also strongly opposed looming trade deals that threaten to commercialise education.
The fifth national congress of Union of Education Norway (UEN), held from 2-4 November in Lillestrøm, near Oslo, produced two statements with special international interest. The first concerned the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War, and the second focused on the ongoing trade agreement negotiations called TiSA, or Trade in Services Agreement.
The National Congress made a statement addressed to the Norwegian government demanding that Norway, together with other European countries, show a willingness to take in and accept refugees. It was also stressed that it is important to facilitate matters so that those arriving in Norway can become integrated into society through education and the labour market.
The UEN also underlined the importance of all teachers in this crisis, pointing out that teachers play an instrumental role to succeed in helping integrate the refugees in society. As Norway’s largest teachers union and a voice for our profession, it is therefore very important that UEN and its members are involved at all levels.
A second statement against commercialisation and commodification of education was also issued, and two messages were clear:
- “The National Congress of Union of Education Norway demand that the Norwegian government does not accept an agreement that cannot later be reversed by means of democratic decisions.”
- “The National Congress of Union of Education Norway demands that the government does not include the education sector in the trade in service agreement.”
In addition to the statements, the UEN elected new leadership and a new executive board, and new policies were debated and decided. Steffen Handal, an Executive Board Member of Education International (EI) was elected as the union’s new leader until at least 2019.