Education unions call on ILO to ensure implementation of UN recommendations on the teaching profession

published 1 July 2024 updated 8 July 2024

At the 112th session of the International Labour Conference, the delegation of Education International brought attention to the recommendations of the United Nations High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession as the new landmark instrument for governments to engage with teacher unions, aiming to improve the status of education workers and address the teacher shortage. The 59 recommendations cover various areas, including social dialogue and teacher wellbeing.

“Education is a key tool to promote peace, equality, prosperity, and sustainability. Education transforms lives. But without teachers, education cannot live up to its promise,” Deputy General Secretary Haldis Holst stated in her address to the tripartite delegations of Member States of the International Labour Organization (ILO) on 10 June 2024.

Deploring the global shortage of 44 million primary and secondary teachers and emphasising the importance of having qualified educators, Holst welcomed the recent adoption of the recommendations from the United Nations High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession. “The Panel calls on governments to invest in the profession. It stresses the need to invest in competitive salaries, secure employment, decent working conditions, inclusive and safe work environments, quality professional development opportunities, and teacher support.”

The Recommendations focus on the necessity of “coordinated and institutionalised” social and policy dialogue with education unions. This point was highlighted in several interventions by EI representatives in the ILO Committee on the Application of Standards. During the general discussion, Robi Baradel of the Argentinian education union CTERA (Confederación de Trabajadores de la Educación de la República Argentina) addressed the right to collective bargaining guaranteed in the recommendation, emphasising the attacks faced by teacher unions, particularly in Argentina.

Roberto Baradel of the Argentinian education union CTERA

“Teachers, like all public servants, need a commitment from public authorities to respect, promote, and realise their rights at work, including their right to unionize without persecution and fear for personal safety,” said EI Senior Coordinator Dominique Marlet during the discussion on the Philippines. In the discussion of the Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS) on Japan, the same EI representative noted that Recommendation 15 urges governments to ensure that teachers and their organisations can engage in social dialogue, including collective bargaining and policy dialogue on all matters affecting the profession. Currently, Japanese teachers struggle with excessive overtime, averaging 81 hours per month in junior high schools and 59 hours in elementary schools. Although their right to collective bargaining is recognised, public teachers' unions cannot conclude collective agreements.

Representatives of EI member organisations in the ILO Committee on Decent Work in the Care Economy also highlighted the UN recommendations on the teaching profession to advocate for early childhood education (ECE) workers. The International Barometer of the Health and Wellbeing of Education Personnel(I-BEST), a survey conducted in collaboration with EI, reported alarming information about the wellbeing, psychological health, working conditions, and professional recognition of ECE personnel, a highly feminised profession. In the survey, ECE personnel expressed difficulties in achieving a good work-life balance, confirmed working while sick, and reported high levels of stress since the beginning of the school year. Gilda Montero of ANDE Costa Rica encouraged governments and the ILO to support the implementation of the UN’s High-Level Panel recommendations, calling for greater investment in teacher training and professional development, salaries and working conditions, wellbeing, and workplaces free from violence and discrimination, as well as social dialogue and collective bargaining at all levels of education, including ECE.

Other interventions by EI representatives called on the ILO to develop a new, up-to-date international instrument to uphold the status of the profession. “The High-Level Panel’s recommendations provide an important roadmap to tackle the persistent and increasing teacher shortages around the world. We urge the ILO to hold countries to account for implementing them. It is the only way to uphold every student’s right to a qualified teacher,” concluded EI Deputy General Secretary Haldis Holst in her plenary intervention.