Monday 10 August 2020

Primary teachers’ strike on November 6 to go ahead after unions change tack

Many schools will stay closed on November 6.

A strike by primary school teachers on November 6 appears to be back on after unions reversed their decision to call it off.

The largest union in the sector, the AOb, withdrew its support for the strike on Friday after the cabinet agreed a €460 mln funding package with unions to close the pay gap between primary and secondary teachers over two years and relieve their workload.

However, teachers’ group PO in Actie, which organised mass protests earlier in the year to press the government to invest in education, said it would continue to seek a long-term pledge.

The organisation said a poll on its website showed teachers almost unanimously wanted to go ahead with the strike. ‘Less than one per cent of more than 11,000 teachers who voted were in favour of the deal,’ said a spokeswoman. ‘Teachers feel they are not being heard, so why has the union not consulted its members?’

On Sunday the AOb and the other major teaching union, CNV Onderwijs, changed course and backed Wednesday’s strike. AOb’s chair, Liesbeth Verheggen, stepped down with immediate effect during an emergency meeting after colleagues accused her of going ‘beyond her mandate’.

CNV admitted it had been a mistake to call off the action and teachers who stayed at home would receive strike pay.

‘Substantial sum’

The decision about whether to join the strike will be taken by individual schools. Some are closing their doors on Wednesday while others, such as Basisschool Baardwijk in Waalwijk, are staying open but teachers will not be giving lessons that day.

Education minister Arie Slob said the investment would still go ahead and insisted it was a good deal for teachers. ‘It is a substantial sum,’ he told AD. ‘Everybody acknowledged that on Friday. We are doing this for 2020 and 2021. I can’t make any promises beyond my own term in cabinet, but look at the politicians and see what political parties have been saying in terms of their wishes for the next cabinet term.’

Labour party leader Lodewijk Asscher said the strike was necessary at a time when four in 10 schools say they have no emergency cover if teachers fall ill. ‘The teachers’ shortage is not an incidental but a structural problem,’ he said. ‘Teachers don’t work on a one-off basis. The wage gap is not temporary. So we need a lot more than the one-off investment that the cabinet is offering.’

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