Education International calls on European education unions to keep democracy and solidarity alive

published 28 November 2018 updated 28 November 2018

Education International’s General Secretary David Edwards has asserted his firm conviction that “the future of democracy is Europe,” and that “the future of solidarity is Europe.”

Addressing delegates at the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) Special Conference, Education International EI General Secretary David Edwards underlined that “it is undeniably a great deal of pressure to put on Europe and by extension Europeans”. But, “where else in the world are nation states so dedicated to a common project anchored in equal parts in rights and responsibilities as they are in Europe?” he asked.

He also noted that “the United States is undergoing an identity crisis and flirting with ruthless, authoritarian populists,” and that, “deep down,” citizens “know that the recovery of their own democratic health is dependent on a strong democratic Europe holding together in a mutually assured construction”.

Reminding participants that the topic of the conference is about Shaping the Future of Europe and affirmatively assuming the role education trade unions have therein, Edwards emphasised that “reclaiming and reshaping the future democratic world lies here in Europe”.

That is why he stressed that “the campaign to ensure that the Parliamentary elections next May see a groundswell of support for an inclusive, democratic and pro-labour platform is fundamentally critical. Linked to that must be a powerful push to revitalise a type of liberal, liberating education that empowers the disenfranchised and builds alliances of hope of shared purpose.”

The future of democracy is Europe

The EI leader insisted that “European member organisations have played a pivotal role in exposing the insidious plans of privatisers to convert public education into a commercial enterprise,” as “we have seen the wreckage of these pro-market, neoliberal policies, combined with standardisation, de-professionalisation, casualisation”.

The future of social dialogue and union renewal is Europe

“As the ILO turns 100 and its tripartite structure is pushed and stressed along with its core conventions and underlying principles, who but the education trade union movement can lead a renewal agenda that is vertically and horizontally engaging our members around an ever-widening scope of bargaining? Who but you can inspire and empower a new generation of teacher trade unionists through a powerful and collective narrative that resonates because it listens and learns?” he went on to say.

The future of solidarity and sustainable development is Europe

Edwards added that Europe “is a region that has learnt through history the importance of solidarity, the importance of defending our brothers and sisters in our movement. Both within and beyond Europe that solidarity has led to the development of independent education unions, solidarity campaigns with unions and their leaders in far-away places and putting the spot light on the plight of the exploited and dispossessed.”

“You better than all others understand solidarity is not some transactional arrangement for which one seeks any return; it is a principle of the highest order,” he told participants. “This is what distinguishes us as unionists committed to greater, better today and tomorrow. A future based on the values and principles of democracy, multiculturalism and respect for diversity.”

Acknowledging that “we are confronting challenges the size and breadth of which we had never envisaged some years ago,” Edwards concluded his intervention by saying that “one thing that I am sure of is that together, the proud EI global union movement will rise to challenge and reverse the current dangerous trajectory we find ourselves on. We will and must organise and mobilise like we have never done before.”

Background information

The ETUCE Special Conference entitled “Shaping the future of Europe: the role of education trade unions,” held from 26-28 November in Athens, Greece, provides an opportunity for representatives of all ETUCE affiliates to meet and strengthen the bonds of solidarity between teachers and other education employees. The focus of this meeting is on the future of Europe and the role of education trade unions therein, addressing future challenges of education trade unions, in particular capacity building, trade union renewal, social dialogue, promoting social inclusion and democratic citizenship.