19 December 2018





ETUCE Committee meets with European MEPs


On 28 March, the ETUCE Committee met with Ole Christensen and Alejandro Cercas, members of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats from the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs at the European Parliament together with 3 more MEPs. The union delegation presented the results of a survey on the impact of the crisis on education, and urged the European Parliament to adopt a resolution on this topic.

ETUCE President, Ronnie Smith, deplored that: “Austerity measures are more a killer than a cure to the crisis. The economic shock affecting the economy affects education, as well as the other publicly funded services. Beyond that, it is widely accepted that education is part of the path leading out of the crisis. Our primary concern is to keep an appropriate financing for education, and a more sensible social approach to the crisis”.

ETUCE Director, Martin Rømer, then presented the ETUCE survey’s outcomes. He regretted there is a considerable difference between the official policy of the Commission and what governments do and decide at European level and at home. Among the consequences of cuts in education, he mentioned: increased working hours for educators, dismissal of teachers, merger or closure of schools, and difficulties in recruiting and retaining teachers. Noting there are ideological reasons rather than economic reasons to cuts in education, Rømer talked about a “vicious spiral,” spreading austerity measures leading to less taxes, less public spending, and increased cuts in education. He finished his intervention by calling on the European Parliament “to come up with a resolution underlining the necessity of protecting education as one of the important tool to get out of the economic crisis.”

The 45-delegate strong trade union delegation then had the opportunity to ask questions to the MEPs.
“We are not able to solve the mentioned issues at the European Parliament, but what we can do is focus on some of them,” answered Ole Christensen. “If we can work with citizens, students, national trade unions, we have great chances to get through in media and get support.” He agreed on the importance of social dialogue.  He furthermore stated that “education should be free of the crisis, and considered an investment, but the leading European Troika insisted austerity measures have to go on be implemented.”

“We will try to find a way to come up with a resolution, finding colleagues of the right we can cooperate with,” promised the other MEP, Alejandro Cercas from Spain. He stressed “public education is not a market value. It is important to fight this battle now, important for our children.” He insisted the current crisis is more a crisis of values than an economic crisis, and strongly highlighted the idea of solidarity. “Citizens throughout Europe want solidarity, through public education systems! We are destroying the tools of solidarity between regions, people, or countries. It is important to show an alternative than ever.”

The meeting concluded by agreeing that further contact between ETUCE and the Parliament should continue to establish a “coalition to protect public education” and find ways of getting a resolution through the Parliament.