Society 05/05/2022

Education unions announce four-day strike in May and June

On May 25 and June 9 the strikes will last all day and on May 17 and June 2 just two hours

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Some 22,000 people, according to the Guardia Urbana, demonstrated in Barcelona in the first strike of March.

BarcelonaMore strikes in schools. Teachers' unions warned that the end of the school year would not be peaceful if the Catalan Department of Education did not reverse the cuts for the next year and, after negotiations were broken off, they have announced industrial action in May and June. On May 25 and June 9 teachers will strike all day and on May 17 and June 2 they will strike for two hours, from 8.00 am to 10.00 am. Unions are calling protests to denounce the Education Department's policies, which among other measures has brought forward the start of next school year. The unions are now demanding above all that the Department to reduce number of teaching hours in primary schools (as the Government had proposed) but also in secondary schools as of next year (which the department says is technically impossible).

At a press conference, unions have insisted on several demands. They have again asked for the withdrawal of the new curriculum, the reversal of cuts and changes to staff numbers and the school year. They have also demanded quality public vocational training with similar salary conditions as other teachers and that interim staff be made permanent. In addition, they demand that the Department of Education take responsibility to defend the use of Catalan in schools.

The new protests come after a five-day strike in March, which was sparked by the Department changing the school-year start date without consulting teachers. Unions lobbied to postpone the change for one school year, but in the face of Catalan Education minister Josep González Cambray's refusal, they decided to go on strike, adding other demands. The strike was widely backed, as thousands of teachers took to the streets demanding Cambray's resignation. Changes to the calendar may have been the trigger, but strikes reflected a deeper malaise among teachers after years of cuts.

After those protests, unions and the Education Department opened a negotiation period, which did not end well . The Education Department made a final offer to unions, which involved reducing primary school teachers' hours by one, starting next year, and doing the same with secondary school and vocational training teachers in the 2023-24 academic year. Unions rejected the proposal because it did not affect all teachers at the same time, after which the Department published the resolution for new staffing levels without incorporating the extra hires the measure would require (even if only applied to primary school teachers).

Far from backing down, unions have since opted to up the ante: they have boycotted some of Cambray's public appearances, such as his conference at the University of Barcelona. Cambray criticised the images of "violent people" and said they "do not represent" teachers. In an article published in ARA, the minister warned, in a veiled reference to the unions, that "those who oppose the transformations are not thinking of the students."

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