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Portugal: Massive educators’ strike to demand respect for the profession and an end to government disregard of teachers

published 16 October 2023 updated 18 October 2023

Following a joint call to action from their unions, Portuguese teachers and education support personnel went on strike on October 6th to urge their government to engage in social dialogue with their representatives organisations and discuss ways to recognise and value their professions.

The strike was called by the Associação Sindical de Professores Licenciados (ASPL), the Federaçao Nacional dos Professores (FENPROF), the Federação Nacional da Educação (FNE), the Pró-Ordem dos Professores (PRÓ-ORDEM), the Sindicato dos Educadores e Professores Licenciados pelas Escolas Superiores de Educação e Universidades (SEPLEU), the Sindicato Nacional dos Profissionais da Educação (SINAPE), the Sindicato Nacional e Democrático dos Professores (SINDEP), the Sindicato Independente de Professores e Educadores (SIPE) and the Sindicato Nacional dos Professores Licenciados pelos Politécnicos e Universidades (SPLIU)

According to a union joint press release, “teachers and educators do not tolerate the way in which they are mistreated by the Prime Minister António Costa, the government in general and the Ministers of Finance and Education in particular, as well as by the absolute majority of the PS which, on the eve of World Teachers' Day, decided to express its ‘recognition’ for the teaching profession by rejecting all parliamentary initiatives that aimed to value a profession that, if not valued, will lose even more professionals and will not attract young people.”

The education organisations warned that the consequence of this lack of recognition for the education professionals “will be a growing lack of qualified teachers in schools, which will have an impact on student learning. This is why the fight that teachers are fighting is not just theirs, but the fight of all Portuguese people who, in a significant majority, have supported the fair demands of their teachers.”

They underlined that, “if there is willingness to begin, progressively and in phases, solving problems that are dragging on and worsening due to the lack of solutions, the Ministry of Education will be able to count on the full availability of teachers and their representative organisations to dialogue and negotiate.”

However, if public authorities continue to ignore the dire situation of the public education sector, the problems of schools and teachers, “the fight will continue, as strong or stronger than in the previous school year. It is up to the Ministry of Education and the government to choose.”

They concluded: “Teachers do not tolerate the disregard and disrespect they are being treated with, and will continue to fight for the profession, for public schools and for quality education.”

World Teachers’ Day, an opportunity to mobilise for decent work conditions and quality public education

In his message for World Teachers’ Day, October 5th, FENPROF General Secretary Mário Nogueira, stressed that “this World Teachers’ Day is observed in Portugal too, not in celebration, but concern and protest.”

He also mentioned that there is a shortage of teachers in many schools, “because governments have devalued the profession and, over the years, degraded the working conditions. Many have left the profession.”

Nogueira concluded: “Fighting to solve the problems is the only alternative to abandonment, which would jeopardize schools and students even more. Because they know this, parents have been on teachers’ side, supportive of their struggle. A struggle that will continue because we stand up for quality teaching and education and a better future for public education.”