Dutch educators are on strike, demanding decent salaries and a normal workload, and urging the government to clearly and firmly address burn out and a shortage in teachers in primary education.
The first regional strike of the planned sequence is held in the provinces of Groningen, Friesland and Drente, in the Netherlands, on 14 February.
The flu season makes the shortage of teachers extremely visible
As reported by Education International (EI) affiliate, the Algemene Onderwijsbond (AOb), the current flu season plays into the hands of the Front for primary education (PO-front),in staging the series of protest actions to reduce workload and increase salaries.
“It makes the shortage of teachers extremely visible in the Netherlands. Since the beginning of February, schools report about their struggle to cope with the absence of their colleagues being on sick leave. Among other things, there are no teachers available for replacement, classes are sent home, retired teachers are begged to help out, education personnel employed on a part time basis work extra days, school leaders teach the whole week and not-yet-too-sick continue teaching, even if they shouldn’t,” AOb commented.
Governmental small steps towards meeting educators’ demands
Following earlier protest actions in June 2017, October 2017 and December 2017, the Dutch government started to take small steps. The Minister of Education, Arie Slob, decided at short notice to announce the budget publicly which he had planned to release in 2021. The budget is oriented towards measures to reduce the workload.
The unions and employer organisations in the PO-front welcomed the decision. They see it as a first meaningful step. “Workload can only be reduced effectively when there are enough teachers, and in order to attract more people into the profession, only a substantial salary raise can help. Therefore, the announced series of strikes is to take place as planned,” AOb added.
Susan Flocken, European Director of EI’s European region, the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE), welcomed the agreement reached, stressing that “it is high time for education authorities to seriously commit to quality education and improving the status of the teaching profession. In times of demographic change, retaining and attracting highly qualified teachers into the profession is crucial.”
Indeed, the provision of quality education depends on decent salaries and working conditions for the retention of qualified professionals and the recruitment of young qualified teachers, she noted.
She concluded: “ETUCE supports AOb in this action and is convinced that this action will lead to meaningful and bigger steps forward for teachers in the Netherlands”.