Social services, health and education unions call for better working conditions and pay

In December 2007, the three trade unions representing the social services, health and education sectors have called for demonstrations. The Health, Social Services and Education Union has been demanding a review of pay scales for many years, while also calling for reforms to reflect the duration and level of education required to work in the professions concerned. The National Union of Teachers and the Education and Science Union joined forces to defend the teaching profession.

Long-standing claims in social services and health sector

The Health, Social Services and Education Union (Syndicat Santé, Services sociaux et éducatifs), which is affiliated to the Luxembourg Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (Onofhängege Gewerkschaftsbond Lëtzebuerg, OGB-L), believes that recent trends clearly reveal the main purpose of the reforms in the social services and health sector: this is to save money at the expense of working conditions and wages of the people employed in the sector. The trade union further argues that this situation impacts on the quality of services delivered. Moreover, the union believes that workers in the social services, education and health sectors are incorrectly relegated to a certain category of workers, and that their work is underrated.

For these reasons, the union rejects all evaluation tools proposed for assessing the performance of workers in the sector; the trade union claims that these tools bear no relation to genuine skills and are merely a means of putting pressure on salaries. In addition, the union also opposes the employers’ request to determine pay scales on the basis of personnel functions rather than on qualifications. According to the trade union, such a wage classification discriminates against those working as educators, advanced educators, nursing auxiliaries, nurses, specialist nurses and technical medical assistants. Furthermore, the union questions funding arrangements in the sector, which may no longer guarantee that services will be provided by qualified and/or experienced personnel.

In order to back these claims, the trade union has decided to organise a protest demonstration and to call for action from personnel delegations and members of personnel in the sectors concerned.

Teachers also demand their dues

Since July 2007, primary school teachers have been waiting for a response from the government regarding the reclassification of senior positions in their profession. This is another long-standing claim which the two trade unions representing the teaching profession – the National Union of Teachers (Syndicat National des Enseignants, SNE) and the Education and Science Union (Syndikat Erzéiung a Wëssenschaft/Syndicat Education et Science, SWE) – regard as urgent in view of the increasingly stringent professional requirements, successive increases in the duration of studies and the new challenges facing the teaching profession.

On 3 October 2007, SNE and SWE adopted a joint position on the reclassification of their profession and decided to take action to demand a response from the government. Since then, their patience has been sorely put to the test by the ministers concerned, who claim that they have to wait for a mandate from the government in order to respond to the trade union’s meeting request and start negotiations. A meeting was held on 7 December; however, the trade unions only learnt from this meeting that the ministers’ priority is to open a discussion on the Bologna process and the classification of the master’s and bachelor’s degrees. In this respect, they will be consulting various associations and trade unions before responding to the teachers in February 2008.

According to the trade unions, the Minister of Labour and Employment, François Biltgen, has already stated that future teachers will never be classified at a higher level than the bachelor level, even if they hold advanced educational degrees. The trade unions do not share the minister’s viewpoint and demand a grade E6 – the highest level on the scale of teaching categories in public primary and post-primary education.

The Minister of the Civil Service and Administrative Reform, Claude Wiseler, believes that such a measure would create a general imbalance. The trade unions reject the minister’s opinion, on the grounds that remedying the injustice suffered by teachers in primary education will not have the effect of calling other pay settlements into question. Consequently, the trade unions called on teachers to mobilise and organise a protest demonstration.

Odette Wlodarski, Prevent

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