At the 61th Education International (EI) Executive Board (ExBo) meeting held online from March 14th – 16th, top education unionists from all regions of the world accelerated their preparations for the next EI World Congresses this year and in 2024, and reiterated their support to educators, students and their communities in Eswatini, Türkiye, and Syria.
EI ‘Go Public!’ campaign
Addressing educators and unionists from around the world, EI General Secretary, David Edwards kicked off the meeting by highlighting the engagement and momentum the EI ‘Go Public! Fund Education’ campaign is generating across regions.
The campaign launched on International Education Day, January 24th, is focused on mobilising EI member organisations for full funding of public education systems to achieve quality public education for all. It is an urgent call for governments to invest in public education, a fundamental human right and public good, and to invest more in teachers, the single most important factor in achieving quality education.
In addition to the campaign launch, Edwards highlighted the work of Education International to respond to affiliates and their challenges in the areas of Human Rights and union strength. The Trade Union Rights Toolkit – released on December 10th to mark Human Rights Day, was developed to support the member organisations as they defend their rights as educators and unionists. Education International also developed a guide for members to build stronger, more inclusive, responsive and dynamic unions.
"Education International and its members have continued to progress our strategic agenda across regions, sectors and platforms in the face of enormous challenges. While far from inevitable, progress is possible when we act as a unified movement," Edwards emphasised to the gathered union colleagues.
Solidarity with Eswatini trade unionists
The persecution and attacks against educators and activists in Eswatini drew a strong response from the Executive Board. With a resolution on Eswatini, the Education International called on the Government of Eswatini to halt the violation of trade union rights and in particular to recognise and respect the rights and autonomy of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT). EI reaffirmed its unwavering solidarity and support for SNAT leadership and members.
The resolution calls on the Government of Eswatini to:
- Respect and protect the fundamental rights of workers and trade unionists, including the right to freedom of association, collective bargaining, and peaceful assembly, in line with international labour standards.
- Cease immediately all forms of harassment and intimidation against trade unionists and human rights defenders, and to conduct thorough and impartial investigations into all cases of violence and attacks against them.
- Engage in constructive and continuous dialogue with SNAT.
EI will organise a high-level mission to meet the authorities of Eswatini to restore dialogue and respect for international labour standards, in particular the International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions 87 on freedom of association and 98 on the right to organise and collective bargaining.
Solidarity with Türkiye and Syria
Moved by the video intervention of Osman Işçi, representative of EI’s Turkish affiliate Eğitim Sen, and the information from members in the region, the EI ExBo also adopted a resolution on the earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria.
Expressing deep condolences to the families of the victims of the earthquake in Türkiye and Syria and standing in solidarity with education workers and unionists who continue to suffer from its consequences, the EI ExBo called for international solidarity with the people of Türkiye and Syria to help in the recovery efforts and on EI member organisations to express their solidarity with sister organisations in Türkiye and Syria and continue to help them respond to the devastation and as they rebuild.
It further urged the Government of Türkiye to:
- Recognise and support the role of public services as first responders, and work with education unions and other public service unions as they respond to the disaster.
- Ensure the right to education of all students by reopening schools and universities without delay and give priority to education in the recovery and reconstruction efforts.
- Engage in meaningful dialogue with teachers, academics, and all education workers through their representative organisations, and consult them when making decisions on education issues.
- Refrain from using the ‘emergency powers' to suspend the right to freedom of association, collective bargaining, and peaceful assembly.
- Ensure payment of the salaries and benefits of teachers and education workers.
- Take the necessary measures to meet the psychosocial needs of students and teachers affected by the catastrophe.
EI's representatives also urged the Government of Syria to facilitate the arrival and distribution of humanitarian aid to the affected areas without delay and reiterated its “call to peace in the area as a humanitarian crisis cannot be fully addressed without conflict resolution”.
Solidarity with teachers and education union activists in the Philippines
EI ExBo also strongly condemned the ongoing human rights violations and anti-union attacks against teachers and education union activists in the Philippines, and urged the Government of the Philippines to adopt legislation to ensure the realisation of public sector teachers and workers' rights to collective bargaining and union activities, including the right to strike.
EI also demanded the establishment of a single presidentially mandated body to comprehensively address all outstanding cases of alleged labour-related, extra-judicial killings and abductions.
EI will monitor the follow up to the ILO Mission in the Philippines during the International Labour Conference in June 2023.
Looking forward to the next EI World Congresses
The ExBo went on to decide on enabling resolutions to be submitted to the 9th World Congress from July 11th–13th 2023. This event will be held online, as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted education systems, work and meeting activities all around the globe.
The 10th EI Congress will be held in person in July 2024 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and focus on the following theme: “Growing our unions, elevating our professions, defending democracy”.
Report of the ad-hoc advisory group on research policy
The ExBo also received the report of the Ad-Hoc Advisory Group on Research Policy whose mandate is to advise on developing a research policy that is relevant, focused, flexible, forward looking, clear and cost-conscious. The Advisory Group acknowledged the importance of ethical considerations when considering research, the importance of ensuring a pluralistic approach to the commissioning of research, and the important function of the EI Research Institute (EIRI) board in advising the ExBo in the areas of its competence.
Fiji: Education union leader appointed minister
During the meeting, the Executive Board received a very special message from Agni Deo Singh, former general secretary of the Fiji Teachers Union (FTU) – an EI member organisation – and now Fiji’s Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations Last December.
Singh shared a message of hope and determination based on his experience going from union leader demanding that the government respond to teachers, to now a government minister making policy for the benefit of the country.
“I will make sure that from now on all ILO conventions and recommendations apply to all Fijian workers, including educators, so they get the full protection of their labour rights,” Singh expressed to his former colleagues at Education International.