While the country has faced a major strike in defense of public services, the French unions members of Education International recall their concerns for the status of government teachers, the quality of education and social dialogue.
The majority of French trade union federations in the public sector called for a strike on 22 March against government measures perceived as “a vast project to demolish public service, impoverish public sector workers and distort their role”. The mobilisation was aimed at the defense of the public sector, the general status of civil servants, public sector jobs, and for increased pay for public sector workers.
Regarding education, trade unions highlight the fact that “the principles we know only too well continue to be applied”, at lower secondary level (middle school) as with reform of the baccalaureate and the “lycée” [senior high] at upper secondary level: reduced resources, ditching of the objectives of democratisation, greater autonomy for teaching institutions, localised baccalaureate, and the undermining of teaching qualifications.
Greatly worried, they want to show the French people that what is going on in the Public Sector and education is serious, and that the proposed changes are far-reaching, “affecting not only the working and pay conditions of 20% of employees, but also our social model”.
They also want a better social dialogue and a real consultation of the unions by the public authorities. This concern is shared even by the union federations that did not participate in this day of action.
SNES-FSU: promotion of the liberal principles of competition and profitability
Mobilising members on 22 March and mentioning a report of the Court of Accounts devoted to the evaluation of the education system, the Syndicat national des enseignements de second degré (SNES-FSU) General Secretary and spokeswoman Frédérique Rolet also recalled that “this institution promotes the liberal principles of competition and profitability, regularly taking teachers to task, accusing them of absenteeism, resisting orders, and demanding that they submit to the demands of neo-management”.
She also reaffirmed that the improvement of the career of the staff, including retirement from having integrated the “out-of-class”, is one of the achievements attributable to the SNES and FSU.
SNUipp-FSU:demanding quality public services and more resources for schools
The Syndicat National Unitaire des Instituteurs, Professeurs des Ecoles et PEGC (SNUipp-FSU) insisted that “mobilising on 22 March means acting in favour of high quality public services for users. Because public sector employees do work that is essential for the country’s development and cohesion.” It urged its members to “demand more resources for schools”, “demand recognition and re-assessment of our skills and qualifications!” and “take action for an effective public sector that fulfils all of its duties towards all citizens in all regions”.
FNEC.FP-FO: all of the gains of 1936 and the post-war period lost
According to the Fédération Nationale de l'Enseignement, de la Culture et de la Formation Professionnelle - Force Ouvrière (FNEC.FP-FO), “in its counter-reforming frenzy, after passing the Labour Code regulations, the government persists with and endorses its willingness to undo all of the gains of 1936 and the post war period”, i.e. the statutes, collective agreements, social welfare, special retirement arrangements, the health and hospital care system, public services, union-management cooperation, the baccalaureate, degrees, vocational colleges, the state school system and the university system.
By attacking the Public Sector (State, hospitals, regions), the government is challenging the essential principles and values of the Republic as upheld by public sector workers throughout France, FNEC.FP-FO underlined.
FERC-CGT: damage to public services and systematization of social sorting
In its Educ’Action CGT mobilisation tract for 22 March, the Fédération CGT de l’Education, de la Recherche et de la Culture(FERC-CGT) also picks up on the fact that the government has embarked on a policy to demolish public service, to the detriment of its civil servants and users, most notably those from the working classes.
FERC-CGT asserts that, in Education, the Ministers Jean-Michel Blanquer and Frédérique Vidal have one objective only: competition between educational establishments, staff and disciplines, but also between students by undertaking systematised social sorting at the end of secondary education and on entering university. “We cannot just sit back and do nothing. While the capitalist crisis serves as a pretext for bosses to further impoverish employees, it is a stronger Public sector and a School system in the service of emancipation that we must reclaim. ”
UNSA-Education: “There will always be a place for trade unionism”
UNSA-Education General Secretary Frédéric Marchand said for his part that “in our world, whatever it may be, there will always be a place for trade unionism”.
He further regretted that President Emmanuel Macron too rarely takes the actors of social democracy into consideration: “Our opinions are barely listened to, regularly ignored and experts often called to the negotiation table in place of employee representatives”.
For Marchand, the president considers the trade unions rather “as brakes, with the desire to put them on the shelves of a conservative 'old world'”.