Definitive break between Education Dpt and the unions: no reduction in teaching hours next year

The 'conselleria' had proposed to apply the change in primary schools next year and in secondary schools the following year

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Tuesday's demonstration in front of the council.

BarcelonaThere is no more margin to seek an agreement. The mess between unions and the Department of Education has materialized with the resolution published this Tuesday at noon on schools' internal portal, informing them of the staff they will have next year. This document does not include the 1,463 extra teachers the Department had promised as a last minute gesture, in exchange for accepting one of the unions' main demands, a reduction in the number of teaching hours for primary and secondary school teachers. But the unions demanded that this measure also be applied in secondary schools from September onwards, a point that the Department claims is neither economically nor technically feasible and proposed a delay until the following academic year, in 2023-24. The unions rejected this and, in the end, staff numbers will be more or less the same as this year, or even lower, if the State does not renew covid funds which allow to pay the thousand of substitute teachers schools had throughout the pandemic. The Department expects a hectic end of the school year.

The department explained that they tried to reach an agreement until the last moment, and during the Easter holidays they called unions to make a last offer, a "definitive gesture of rapprochement", which they presented at a meeting on Friday, April 22: it consisted of cutting teaching hours by one in primary schools next year (making it 23 a week and not 24 as now), which would cost an extra €67m and require the incorporation of 1,463 teachers, and to do the same in secondary school and vocational training in the 2023-24 academic year (going down from 19 to 18 hours), which would have required €103m to hire 2,009 teachers. This proposal, which in practice means reversing the austerity cuts from the past decade, was a step forward compared to the Department's first offer, which did not include vocational training. The Department has denied that, in exchange, it demanded teachers to spend more hours at schools when they were not teaching.

Escalation of the conflict

Education Department and unions were meant to meet on Monday, but the teachers' representatives did not show up and, a few hours later, they boycotted a conference by Education minister Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray at the Universitat de Barcelona. That is why the Department has considered the negotiations had come to an end and decided not to increase staff numbers for next year. "We regret it," said the general director of Teachers and Staff of Public Schools, Dolors Collell, who led the negotiations. Collell was concerned about the escalation of the conflict: "It makes the system and teachers very tense. Projecting tension, shouting and intimidation do not move forward," she insisted, and asked the unions to "reconsider" the way they make demads because teachers are "role models" for students. "There are certain attitudes that we cannot justify," she said.

"We have rejected the offer because we cannot accept a proposal that only makes an improvement to a part of the teaching staff and not to the rest," Iolanda Segura, spokesperson for USTEC, explained to ARA. "How would we explain to ESO staff that they will not recover their schedule next year, when it is as necessary or more than in primary? It has to be for everyone the same," she argues. Segura demands the department make an effort so that all teachers can recover the teaching hours they had prior to the cuts: "We deserve to recover our working conditions," she said.

The other major demand by unions was to postpone changes to the school calendar by one school year. Rather than starting classes a week earlier –on September 5th, and not on the 12th–, teachers' representatives had been visibly angry because the Govern announced that in order to prepare the year, teachers would have to attend schools in the first five days of July. According to the Department, unions argued that July is usually devoted to training, although according to the department's data only a third of teachers take training courses in that month (10% through teachers' associations and between 20 and 25% through the Department). Given the dissatisfaction, the Education Department proposed it could put in writing that it would only be five days and to prepare for the next school year. But the offer has not even been negotiated and it is expected that the new calendar will be published soon.

CCOO denounces the call to work in July

Precisely in relation to the July debate, CCOO has filed an appeal for reconsideration against the Department to stop the resolution that requires teachers to attend schools. The text states that teachers who are to switch schools in the summer will not receive an official appointment until August 31. This could make schools liable to legal action if they require them to turn up earlier, the union has warned.

Without an agreement, the reduction in teaching hours has been postponed and the educational debate has been poisoned further. Unions have announced more protests in the last stretch of the year. The Department says it wants to reverse the cuts, but most it will have to negotiate with new spokespersons, since there are union ballots in March 2023. In fact, this is likely to have conditioned negotiations in recent weeks. The Department still has to roll out a new curriculum, seek to stabilise the workforce, reduce ratios in nursery schools and set up a new vocational training system.