Education International
Education International

Teachers join in call for G20 to put people first

published 30 March 2009 updated 30 March 2009

Teachers and trade unionists were well-represented among the 35,000 demonstrators who marched through the streets of London on 28 March to demand that leaders of the G20 make the needs of working people and the poor top priority when they meet this week to draft a global economic recovery plan.

The first of several demonstrations leading up to the G20 Summit Thursday, the “Put People First” march united more than 150 trade unions, NGOs, civil society and church groups. “Jobs, Justice, Climate” were the key words of the day. The protests take place against a backdrop of deepening public anger over massive bailouts to banks and enormous bonuses to failed financiers, even as millions of workers are losing their jobs, homes and dreams for the future. “We won’t pay for their crisis” was the slogan to be seen on many banners and placards. “Invest in Education” was the message on EI’s banners in English, French, Spanish and German.

“We are here to send a message to the G20 that investment in education should be a key element in any economic recovery package,” said EI Deputy General Secretary Charlie Lennon. “It’s essential to build economies that are based on sound educational systems, both in developing and industrialised countries.”

Lennon added that G20 leaders must not lose sight of the Millennium Development Goals, particularly Education For All, and that overseas development aid must not be reduced even as governments attempt to cope with domestic economic problems. Despite predictions of violence and a massive police presence, the demonstration was entirely peaceful. Indeed, there was a festive atmosphere as rain clouds occasionally parted, giving marchers a glimpse of spring sunshine.

EI joined members of affiliates from the UK, Germany, Spain, France, and Belgium. The education union contingent was led by music teachers who form the NASUWT marching band, which attracted enthusiastic followers and applause all along the route.

Reuters reported that the London march was mirrored in other major EU cities. About 15,000 people marched through Berlin and up to 14,000 assembled in Germany’s financial capital of Frankfurt as part of a two-city demonstration. About 6,000 demonstrators, mostly students and trade union members, marched in Rome to protest a meeting of G8 labour ministers there.