France: trade union front against the government reform of vocational

published 19 October 2022 updated 26 October 2022

Education International stands in solidarity with French education trade unionists who strongly supported the inter-union mobilisation on 18 October against the reform of vocational high schools.

The inter-union statement calling for the strike notes that “President Macron persists in wanting to impose on staff his reform of vocational high schools based on the apprenticeship model. This is a telling example of how the method has not changed: no assessment of the previous reform, no consultation prior to this brutal announcement and a tardy (and unclear) roadmap, even though the decisions being prepared hold serious consequences.”

While the organisations recognise that the training curriculum must evolve, they also believe that “it must evolve in line with the general interest of the country, in view of the major ecological challenges and the needs in terms of care of the elderly, reindustrialisation and digital technology, etc. In no way should its ‘evolution’ be restricted to matching the immediate and local economic needs of companies: every young person, regardless of the geographical location of his or her vocational school, must be able to find the training of his or her choice.”

For the unions, the most urgent need is to strengthen vocational schools and to give their staff more time and resources to help all students succeed. “The reform is the exact opposite of our ambitions, which is why our organisations are calling for a one-day strike on Tuesday 18 October, the starting point of mobilisation to ensure that the project is withdrawn.”

SE-UNSA: reform overdose

The SE-UNSA teachers’ union insisted that “for the past three months, the President of the Republic and his Minister of Vocational Education and Training have been making a succession of worrying announcements about reforming – once again – vocational schools. It remains unclear what the government intends to do.”

In its view, “The main attacks contained in the government’s announcements are leading the public to believe that vocational high schools have little to offer their pupils in terms of access to the world of work and are disconnected from the world of business, in a bid to push through this umpteenth reform, which would be destructive for our professions and for the general education and training of our pupils.”

The union’s main concerns are linked to:

  • The 50% increase in the duration of on-the-job training periods, which could lead to job cuts and annualised working hours for staff in vocational schools, at the same time as causing a deterioration in education and training conditions for pupils;
  • The alignment of vocational education with apprenticeships, which could lead to the disappearance of part of the pupils’ basic education;
  • An in-depth review of vocational education and training curricula, which could lead to potentially painful retraining for teachers while locking students into occupations in their local area; and
  • The status and working conditions of staff in vocational schools.

Although the SE-UNSA teachers’ union, through its federation UNSA-Education (affiliated to Education International), was received by the Minister of Vocational Education and Training prior to the day of the mobilisation, no indication was given of any openness at the meeting.

The SE-UNSA, deploring a “clear lack of transparency and openness”, called on its members to mobilise in defence of vocational schools, staff and the education provided to their pupils and to press for the re-establishment of the 2018 Reform Monitoring Committee.

SNES: against anti-social reform and for higher wages and trade union rights

“This reform, which mainly targets the most socially and academically vulnerable pupils and is based on the apprenticeship model, proposes even less schooling for those who need it most,” denounced the SNES-FSU secondary school teachers’ union, affiliated to Education International.

The union firmly opposes “this anti-social reform, aimed at providing low-cost labour to local companies and weakening the emancipatory role of schools”.

The SNES_FSU is also calling for higher wages and respect for trade union rights.

It pointed out that “it is now clear, thanks in particular to the action of the SNES-FSU, that teachers, principal education advisers, national education psychologists, support staff for pupils with disabilities (AESH) and education assistants must benefit from a pay increase”.

Considering that the promises and announcements of a pay rise are “vague, fluctuating, subject to conditions and below what is needed to make up for previous losses, to upgrade our jobs and to put an end to the precariousness (especially for AESH – support staff for pupils with disabilities)”, the SNES-FSU called, as part of the inter-union alliance, on staff to take part in the interprofessional mobilisation of 18 October “for a rise in salaries and the defence of the right to strike” following the requisitioning of refinery workers who were staging a strike to press for a pay rise.

The SNES-FSU will continue to mobilise, with the FSU, to secure:

  • A recovery of previous wage losses.
  • An unconditional pay rise for all staff.