Social dialogue developments in the education sector in Europe

9 Januar 2017


Teachers across Europe have been protesting about their working conditions. Pay levels and pay inequalities, working time and workload, recruitment procedures and staffing at schools have been the main focus of social dialogue and collective action. Several of the reported Read more

Teachers across Europe have been protesting about their working conditions. Pay levels and pay inequalities, working time and workload, recruitment procedures and staffing at schools have been the main focus of social dialogue and collective action. Several of the reported cases are set in the context of educational reforms.


The public sector has been a focus of industrial action in recent years. In one of its subsectors, education, protests and other forms of industrial action have been reported by many countries throughout 2015 and 2016. This topical update aims to capture some of the most recent, commonly observed, social dialogue developments in the education sector. Selected cases are taken from contributions by Eurofound’s Network of European Correspondents in quarterly reports in 2015 and 2016 (up to the third quarter). It should be noted that issues in these reports may have been resolved or have changed after that period, and that not all countries reported on issues relevant to the education sector during this period. Eurofound’s sixth European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) also looked at working conditions in the education sector (see Box 1).

The issues under debate in the education sector centre mostly on teachers’ working conditions. They concern pay equality, fairness in recruitment or working time, and work intensity. Disputes and strikes have also arisen from the introduction of educational reforms underway in a number of Member States.

The European sectoral social partners in the education sector closely monitor the effects of the financial crisis on teachers’ working conditions, which have been deteriorating in some countries. In 2013, the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) released a survey report (PDF) on the impact of the crisis on teachers. Some 30 teacher trade unions from 26 countries were asked to provide answers on topics such as salaries, allowances, working hours, recruitment and the duration of the curriculum for teacher training. The survey revealed that there has been ‘a strong push across Europe for reforms in the education sector’. In half of the participating countries, teachers’ salaries and allowances were cut and teachers also experienced a pay freeze. Further issues such as teachers’ dismissals and school mergers were also reported in the survey.

Many of these trends were still relevant in 2016.

Box 1: Education sector facts from the sixth EWCS

The sixth EWCS asked more than 43, 000 workers about many aspects of their working conditions. The figures and page numbers below refer to the Overview report and should be read in conjunction with it.

The survey’s findings show that, when in terms of different job quality indices (Figure 30, p. 39), workers in the education sector score higher than workers in other sectors on almost all aspects. These include the skills needed for their work and discretion regarding it, social and physical environment, job prospects and working time quality. Workers in education are also shown to have a better indicator for work intensity compared with many other sectors. They strongly feel that their work is meaningful (Figure 93, p. 104) and they also perceive the social support from colleagues and managers as high (p. 68). Employees in the sector have a strong representation and voice (Figure 61, p. 75 and Figure 64, p. 77).

Work intensity, by and large, is also more favourable than in other sectors (Figure 30, p. 39), but a more nuanced look at different components of this index is needed (Figure 39, p. 50). Working to tight deadlines, or at high speed, is relatively infrequent and the proportion of those that claim to never, or rarely, have enough time to carry out the job, or to have frequent disruptive interruptions, lies within the EU28 average.

However, workers in education more often have to deal with emotional demands – an important finding for policymaking, as research indicates that high levels of such demands are predictors for mental health issues, fatigue and burnout.

Education sector employees more often report that they have to hide emotions, deal with emotionally disturbing situations and handle angry third parties. In fact, the intensity of dealing with angry clients has increased most in education since 2010 – which raises the question as to whether relationships may have deteriorated during the past five years.

When looking more closely at adverse social behaviour at work, workers in education are exposed to verbal abuse more often (Figure 53, p. 70), whereas other forms of behaviour, such as physical violence, bullying or harassment or threats, are encountered on a below-average basis. Another less favourable aspect of working conditions in education is working time arrangements, as flexibility is comparatively low (it is often the organisation that sets the schedule) with little autonomy for the worker and, also, working from home tends to be more frequent (Figure 75, p. 87). Earnings are another point, where employees in education score below average (Figure 30, p. 39).

The EWCS report combined the seven indices and grouped workers into five different profiles of job quality: those that are ‘high flying’, ‘smooth running’, ‘active manual’, ‘under pressure’ or of ‘poor quality’. (See pages 128 and 129 for a detailed description of these types.) Workers within each sector can be allocated to any of these five job profiles. The results show that the majority of education sector employees fall either under the ‘high flying’ (38%) or the ‘smooth running’ (34%) type. Another 4% could be considered as ‘active manual’. One in five employees in education (19%) falls into the ‘under pressure’ category, with 4% in the ‘poor quality’ bracket.

Social dialogue in the context of education reforms

Several countries (see cases in Box 2) are reforming their national education systems. The issue of school autonomy is part of some of these reforms which, from a governmental perspective, means that autonomy for schools is increased to the benefit of both principals and students. Trade unions in contrast fear that this will affect teaching quality and result in job losses. However, the issue is not always perceived in the same way: in Hungary, trade unions fear that the shift from a local to a centralised management schooling system would mean lesser autonomy for head teachers.

Other topics included in the reforms aim to:

  • substitute the current curriculum with a fairer system (France);
  • tackle inequalities within the profession (Italy);
  • incorporate a dual education system combining a normal curriculum with vocational training, to combat exclusion and unemployment (Poland and Slovakia).
Box 2: Examples of recent reforms in the education sector

Broader educational reforms

Austria: In autumn 2016, a legislative package on the autonomy of Austrian schools (Schulautonomie) was being discussed as part of a broader educational reform.

Croatia: The comprehensive curriculum reform in Croatia aims to review the levels and types of education and to define the purpose, values, goals and principals for education cycles.

France: The French reform of compulsory education (refonder l’éducation prioritaire) is aimed at combating inequality. It comprises 14 measures and combines certain themes with the normal curriculum. For instance, ‘sustainable development’ or ‘citizenship’ should now be addressed from the fifth year on (at the age of about 10–11), for between one to three hours per week within the compulsory educational modules.

Italy: Law 107/2015 (La buona scuola), to be implemented by the end of 2016, is aimed at better integrating education, training and the Italian labour market. It sets out changes in 12 areas, such as the hiring of additional teachers under permanent contracts; changing automatic pay rises connected to the length of service to quality of work; and making vocational training compulsory during the last three years of technical and professional curricula.

Reforms targeting vocational education and training

Hungary: Reform of vocational education and training (VET) schools

Another major transformation of the Hungarian education system is intended to serve the demands of the Hungarian labour market. In 2013, the maintenance of all primary and secondary schools was transferred from local authorities to a fully centralised management system represented by the Klebelsberg Institution Maintenance Centre (KLIK). The focus shifted from grammar schools to vocational education. The reform involved the gradual introduction, from mid-2015, of two types of VET schools (secondary and vocational). The first offered the opportunity of continuing to study in higher education while the second offered work-based experience with practical training.

Slovakia: Introduction of a new dual system of education

In 2015, Act no. 61/2015 on VET for the dual system of education was introduced. (A dual education system combines apprenticeships in a company and vocational education at a vocational school in one course.)  Peak-level employer organisations are key partners in the implementation of the new system.

Poland: Reform of compulsory education

This involves replacing the three-tier system of compulsory education with a two-tier system combining in-class education and vocational training.

Details on the selected cases mentioned below are included in the annex.

As schools reopened after the summer break, developments in the sector were coming to the fore. In some cases, the reforms are still the subject of industrial action or are being discussed by the social partners.

Several proposed reforms are closely linked to plans to tackle youth unemployment. The focus is on combining vocational training with the educational curriculum to make it easier for young people to enter the labour market and for employers to recruit skilled students. In France, reforms that came into effect from 1 September 2016 sparked strikes throughout 2015. Teachers claimed that additional subjects in the new programme would mean extra working time and, also, that they had not received training to teach them.

Similarly, in Austria, the Trade Union of Secondary Schools (Goed-AHS is opposing the new Austrian government package for more autonomy in schools. It considers the proposal to eliminate a maximum number for class sizes unacceptable: it feels that the new autonomy of schools will have a negative impact on teaching quality and that the employment of young teachers could be at risk.

Trade unions in Italy were unhappy with the increased responsibilities of school principals (such as deciding on merit-based pay increases to teachers) and the current process of social dialogue. In contrast, in Hungary the educational reform was perceived as a threat to schools because of a perceived loss of operational autonomy. The full takeover by the government triggered massive demonstrations on 11 June 2016 and the implementation of changes was back on the agenda in autumn 2016.

Also, in Poland, discontent among state school teachers has been growing over the major reform of compulsory education (the three-tier system being replaced with a two-tier one, without a middle school).

In Croatia, the former government established a working group to discuss the draft curriculum reform. The group, which had worked on a draft paper for 16 months, was dissatisfied with the support it received from the new government, and finally resigned, leading to a series of protests in June 2016 across Croatia.

The social dialogue around the introduction of a dual system of education in Slovakia has been successfully concluded with an initial evaluation of dual education taking place in 2016, a year after its implementation.

Dissatisfaction with the level of pay

Pay was another major focus of social dialogue in the education sector. Considerable information on this topic is available in an OECD report, Education at a glance 2016: OECD indicators, published in 2016. (In the discussion below, ‘EU22 average’ contains data from the EU28 (excluding Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Romania) plus Norway.)

Figure 1 highlights the pay variation between older and newer Member States, with lower pay concentrated in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, at less than USD 20,000 (€19,000 as at 19 December 2016) in purchasing power parity per year. Some of the wealthier countries (Finland, France, Sweden and the UK), however, stand below the 'EU22' average while the top salaries are to be found in Denmark, Germany and Luxembourg.

Figure 1: Teachers’ statutory salaries per school year (USD)

Notes: In equivalent USD converted using purchasing power parity for private consumption) based on average at different points of teachers’ careers (2014) in primary, lower secondary and upper secondary school education.

Source: OECD indicator D3.1b

Low pay was a major topic in the education sector in 2016, causing unrest during the course of pay-setting in the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and the UK. In each case, protests were announced or held and, ultimately, resulted in pay increases.

In the Czech Republic, the ‘end of cheap teachers’ campaign was launched in spring 2016 by the Czech and Moravian Trade Union of Workers in Education (ČMOS PŠ) to draw attention to poor wages in the Czech public and administrative sector. Low pay is closely related to the difficulty of recruiting teachers, which could put a strain on the whole economy in the long run.

The new model on teachers' pay in Latvia, approved in July 2016, will provide for increases to the lowest wage, from €420 to €680 per month, but this increase will not be at all education levels.

Collective bargaining over payment procedures and pay rises in Lithuania continued in the autumn of 2016 between the Ministry of Education and Sciences and seven education sector trade unions.

In Slovakia, demands from teachers grew after the election of the new government in March 2016. Teachers have since complained that the new government has not met their demands for higher pay and extra resources, and expressed their dissatisfaction with negotiations on 7 October 2016.

In the UK, thousands of staff including lecturers, librarians, technicians, cleaners and caretakers at further education colleges across England took part in a one-day strike over pay on 24 February 2016. Staff were protesting against a pay freeze recommended by the Association of Colleges. This follows several years of very low pay rises resulting, for some staff, in a real-term pay cut of up to 17%.

Growing concern over inequalities in pay

Another recurring pay-related controversy was the dissatisfaction about pay inequalities – not only between different groups of employees within the education sector, but also compared with other public sectors.

OECD data show that pay gaps are generally more pronounced along the career of teachers than across education levels. For those countries with available data ('EU22'), the statutory pay of a teacher at the top of the scale is, on average, 60% higher than the salary of a new teacher. At the same time, statutory pay is only 10% higher for teachers in the (generally better paid) upper secondary level, than for those working at primary school level.

However, there are substantial differences across countries on these pay inequalities. Figure 2 shows how different countries compare with the 'EU22' average in terms of these two indicators on pay inequality.

  • Lower than average pay gaps in both dimensions are found in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Norway, Slovakia and Sweden.
  • Countries where both types of pay gaps are pronounced are Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Poland.
  • Pay inequalities over the career path are of particular concern in France, Greece, Hungary and Ireland, whereas in the same countries, inequalities across the levels are below or at least comparable to the European average.
  • In another set of countries, pay gaps are less pronounced over the career of a teacher, but more so across different education levels. This is particularly so in Finland, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Figure 2: Pay gaps of statutory teachers’ pay over their career and across education levels

Notes: x-axis: Pay gap between primary and upper secondary level = percentage gap between the average statutory pay within each level; y-axis: Pay gap between the starting salary and the top of the scale salary in percentage terms; average of this figure across the three education levels (primary, lower and upper secondary). The figures are not weighted by the actual number of teachers.

Source: Author’s calculations, based on OECD indicator D3.1b

The recent turmoil in several Member States can be seen in the context of this growing concern about pay gaps.

There were protests over decent pay for assistant kindergarten teachers in Slovenia in September 2016, when trade unions in and outside the education sector joined forces to demand they should get higher wages than the basic monthly salary of around €650. The government acknowledged that the teachers’ pay was based on a faulty system that had generated anomalies in the public sector. But although the Minister of Education, and the Education, Science and Culture Trade Union of Slovenia (SVIZ) agreed on the valuation and new description of the assistant teachers’ workplace, the issue around wage anomalies has not been resolved and negotiations are to continue in 2017. There was also some prolonged collective bargaining in Germany during 2015–2016, because gaps in terms and conditions of employment, including the pay of teachers on different contracts, had been ignored. After the Trade Union of Education (GEW) refused, in 2015, to accept the collective agreement for public sector employees, a new agreement on pay scales in the sector was reached in the summer of 2016.

Unrest continues in Ireland over inequalities between newly recruited teachers and longer serving teachers because of cuts to qualification allowances made by public sector austerity measures. The variation of pay for similar duties and responsibilities of teachers was settled through an agreement to restore part of the loss for those who entered the profession after 2011. The education sector in Ireland accounted for 67.5% of total days lost in the first quarter of 2016. Further industrial action was led, in the autumn of 2016, by the Association of Secondary Teachers (ASTI), which rejected the agreement, with its members consequently not benefiting from the 15% increase agreed for teachers’ starting salaries between 31 August 2016 and 1 January 2018. At the end of November, the Teachers’ Conciliation Council invited ASTI to terminate its action and a set of proposals was released by ASTI and the Department of Education and Skills. A ballot of ASTI members on the document, Outcome of Department of Education and Skills and ASTI discussions, will take place in January 2017. ASTI’s Central Executive Council is recommending that members vote to reject the proposals. The union will continue to defer its industrial action pending the outcome of the ballot.

There were also waves of protests in Romania in October 2016 about the alignment of salaries of public sector employees in the same positions in different institutions. These mainly concerned the education and healthcare sectors and, as a result, the Parliament approved a 15% wage increase for some categories of staff, a measure supported by trade unions.

Working time and workload of teachers

According to an OECD report, Education at a glance 2016, based on available data from the ‘EU22’, teachers spend a total statutory working time of 1,538 hours per school year in primary education, and up to 1,560 hours in upper secondary general education. This corresponds to the number of hours formally required from teachers to work, including teaching and non-teaching time.

Some large discrepancies exist between statutory time in upper secondary education; for example the Netherlands has 394 hours more than in the UK, although a similar number of hours are spent in actual teaching in both countries at the same level of education (Figure 3). The OECD report indicates that statutory time must be distinguished from actual teaching time, which includes overtime. In some countries, actual time differs significantly from statutory requirements. In Slovenia, for example, lower secondary teachers work around 6% more than the statutory benchmark time, while in Hungary, actual teaching time is up to 9% more than statutory requirements. In contrast, actual teaching time in Estonia is about 3% less than statutory teaching time at the lower secondary level.

The OECD report also indicates that the large proportion of statutory working time spent in teaching means that a lesser amount of time is available for non-teaching activities such as lesson preparation, correction and staff meetings during the working school day. As a result, teachers have to perform these activities in their own time, working more hours than the statutory allocated paid working hours. The report indicates that, for instance, in Poland and Slovakia, the teachers’ total annual statutory working time, including time spent at school and elsewhere, is specified, although the way it is allocated is not. Also, in Sweden, the working time per year is set up through collective agreements, but this does not prevent school principals from deciding on the allocation of the working hours per week and on the teachers’ time in teaching or non-teaching activities.

Figure 3: Teachers’ statutory teaching hours per school year in lower secondary education compared with net teaching time, 2014

Note: Comparable data on net teaching time not available for Sweden.

Source: OECD indicator D4.1

Hours worked are closely linked to teachers’ workload. Many cases report an unmatched situation between the total number of contracted hours spent in teaching and the additional time spent for the preparation of classes and for extracurricular activities. Non-teaching activities required by legislation do not necessarily reflect the actual participation of teachers in those activities. The activities included:

  • preparation of lessons;
  • marking/correcting of student work;
  • administrative paper work;
  • participation in internal meetings, school boards.

These extracurricular activities are often the core of the tension between teachers’ unions and governments. The additional responsibilities are sometimes included in the statutory hours, leaving less time for teaching, or happen in addition to working hours, and yet are compulsory, unpaid and impinge on teachers’ free time. In addition, the allocation of teaching and non-teaching hours is sometimes decided at school level and not always implemented as part of a collective agreement.

Ambiguous situations may arise from the difficulty in regulating working hours and workload, such as in Poland, where this decision was left with head teachers because of imprecise legislation regarding extra hours for teachers.

The Slovenian Court of Audit has been reviewing the working time of teachers in primary schools and has also examined how effectively the Ministry of Education is managing teachers’ workload. For some time, SVIZ has been pointing to the irregularities in the organisation of working time and teachers’ workload. The last research on teachers’ working time, from 2003, showed that teachers worked more than 40 hours a week.

Reforming the educational system sometimes involves working hours not seen as additional teaching. In France, for instance, some new subjects were added to the normal curriculum within the College 2016 Reform (which came into effect on 1 September 2016). Teachers are concerned about this, as those extra hours, once provided on a voluntary basis, are now incorporated as compulsory teaching hours.

Recruitment and staffing

Two recent cases of issues of transparency and irregularities have been reported in primary education.

In Cyprus, the compromise reached in October 2016 with the government was made without the consent of the third union of primary teachers who asked for the regulation of the employment status of substitute teachers before the hiring freeze on new staff. The primary education teachers’ union (POED) had to act on its own to submit a resolution for this. Another breach of procedure concerns the flouting, in some schools, of the collective agreement on the recruitment of staff in primary schools in Croatia, according to which school principals should report on the needs for staff.


Teachers and other employees in the education sector have protested in various ways over the year about pay and working conditions.

Findings from the sixth EWCS show that, by and large, the job quality of employees in the sector is relatively favourable. However, attention needs to be drawn to the rather high level of emotional demands that employees have to cope with – in particular, the considerable increase in having to deal with angry third parties.

The cases reported above show that social dialogue and recent collective disputes within the education sector were mainly in relation to the following challenges:

  • reforming the sector to make the systems more efficient and/or as a means to adapt education more closely to the needs of labour markets, including reforming or developing dual education in several countries;
  • dissatisfaction about the comparatively low level of pay, plus pressures to remove post-recession measures such as pay freezes, and growing concerns about pay inequalities within different groups of employees in the sector (it is noticeable that most of the cases about pay levels related to central or eastern European Member States, while pay inequality was of greater concern in other countries);
  • most reforms or issues under debate have had an impact on the working conditions of teachers or on the pay of entrants in the profession, incorporating extra-curriculum activities without adding working hours outside the regular teaching hours;
  • pay inequality arising over the length of service, or because of different types of contract, or for teachers working in different areas of the education section (this has either been addressed by education reforms, is the subject of collective bargaining or is still part of a continuing debate).

What happened at national level is now the focus of debates scheduled in the European Sectoral Social Dialogue in Education (ESSDE) work programme for 2016–2017 . One of the ESSDE projects is to ‘promote sectoral social dialogue in education at European and national level by addressing new challenges and exploring experience and knowledge’. Among the topics that will be addressed during 2017 are:

  • the trends in the education sector on innovative education and training;
  • how social partners can contribute to enhancing the profile of education employees through continuous learning and development;
  • how social partners can contribute to the improvement of linking VET and labour market and so promote the development of relevant skills and knowledge.

About this article

This article is based on contributions from Eurofound’s Network of European correspondents to the Network Quarterly Reports 2015 and 2016 (up to the third quarter) and to other EurWORK articles.

Annex: More information on latest developments in the education sector (by country)

Austria: Autonomy package under criticism

Goed-AHS is calling for other teachers’ unions in the public service to fight to secure good quality employment in schools and has criticised the way the ‘autonomy package’ was decided without the involvement of affected parties. The union claims it is not clear if more autonomy would actually mean more freedom for schools’ principals.

Source: Christine Aumayr, Eurofound

Croatia: Protest over collective agreement on staffing in primary schools

On 16 September, the Croatian teachers’ trade union (SHU) organised a protest ‘5–12’ in front of the building of the Ministry of Science, Education and Sport about irregularities in the employment of primary school teachers. The collective agreement stipulates that school principals should report when staff are needed (and, also, no longer needed). It would appear that Croatian labour law on recruitment has not always been respected by some schools. According to SHU, this results in huge costs to the Ministry and to the government’s budget. The trade union wants the Ministry, in the newly elected government, to send a letter to head teachers to remind them that they are obliged to respect the law, to ensure that there is transparency in employment, and that the collective agreement is not breached.

Source: Predrag Bejakovic and Irena Klemencic, Institut za javne financije (IJF)

Cyprus: Lack of solidarity among teachers’ unions on contract staff

Issues of transparency and fairness in recruitment procedures were reported in Cyprus where a new recruitment system, proposed by the government in April 2015 and validated by the Organisation of Greek Secondary Education Teachers (OELMEK), has been met with opposition from temporary staff who fear that the proposed points system based on written examinations, academic qualifications and experience, may threaten the employment of many teachers.

Unions’ discontent about the reform is also linked to the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding under which Cyprus had to reduce the number of public sector employees by 4,500 between 2012 and 2016. This was to be done by:

  • a freeze on hiring new personnel in first-entry posts until the end of 2016;
  • the recruitment of one worker for every four retirements;
  • the introduction of transferability of civil servants;
  • the scrapping of at least 1,880 permanent posts.

The dispute that has emerged over the staffing problems in primary schools, between the Ministry of Education and the primary teachers’ union POED, resulted in a strike on 21 September 2016. Despite the appointment of 147 new teachers in primary education, POED says the staffing problem has not been resolved. POED had pressed the Ministry of Education and Culture to double the number of posts by 1,000 in order to get all substitute teachers recruited permanently before the new system is in place. However, in early October 2016, it said it had been ‘stabbed in the back’ by OELMEK and the Association of Teachers of Technical Education (OLTEK) when they reached a compromise with the government for the regulation of the status of employment of contract teachers, from 12-month to 10-month contracts. POED said this was a major blow for trade union solidarity and called for a five one-hour work stoppages for two months, starting 26 October 2016. However, it decided to suspend its action in some areas for two weeks when it was invited by the Minister of Education for dialogue on 4 November, following a protest outside government’s buildings the previous day. POED requested and was granted a hearing with Minister of Finance where it submitted a resolution setting out its demands.

Source: Loucas Antoniou, INEK

Czech Republic: Government reacted favourably for pay rise to avoid protests

Teachers’ salaries are the lowest in the public sector, and are also the slowest to increase. The average wages of university-educated teachers and other university graduates are also not aligned. Consequently, the Czech and Moravian Trade Union of Workers in Education (ČMOS PŠ), supported by the Minister of Education, requested a 10% pay raise for teachers in 2017. The union threatened to organise a national strike in September 2016 if its demands were not granted. The Czech government finally approved an overall 8% pay raise for teachers and a 5% rise for non-teaching staff. The increase in tariffs was 6% and 4%, respectively. The government’s prompt reaction defused a tense situation and the strike was called off. New salary conditions came into force on 1 September 2016. In addition, the government has approved a faster pace of advancement for new teachers. The Minister of Education, Kateřina Valachová, wants salaries for teachers to be at least 1.3 times the average national income by 2020.

Source: Renata Kyzlinková, VUPSV

France: Extra-curriculum teaching is focus of disputes

Reforming the educational system sometimes involves working hours not calculated as additional teaching. In France, for instance, the addition of some new subjects to the normal curriculum within the College 2016 Reform (in effect since 1 September 2016) has been a subject of concern for teachers, as those extra hours ( once provided on a voluntary basis) are now incorporated as compulsory teaching hours. The Ministry of Education’s argument for the reform is that autonomy of the schools will be increased to the benefit of pupils.

Source: Frederic Turlan, IR Share

Germany: Pay gap settled between workers under different status

Teachers with a different type of contract and their associated terms and conditions of employment, including pay, were the focus of prolonged negotiation. While public sector bargaining had resulted in a collective agreement for 880,000 German public sector workers in February 2015, the GEW refused to sign it, because it did not address the gap in pay and working conditions between public school teachers having civil servant status, and those having worker status. However, all parties negotiated new pay scales for employees in municipal and educational services, including childcare workers. As a result, a new collective agreement on pay scales in educational services and for childcare workers was reached in June 2016 after a month-long strike.

Source: Birgit Kraemer, Institut in der Hans-Böckler-Stiftung (WSI)

Hungary: Government ignored key demands from teachers’ unions

The 2015 school year ended with a partial agreement on KLIK, the new fully centralised management system. The government accepted some modifications, but the key demands of protesters, education experts and trade unions were not met. KLIK was restructured with a smaller centre and several district units, and school directors’ roles in the operation of schools were partially restored. However, all public schools (except private, foundation and religious schools), including their assets, were taken over from local authorities by the government. Protests emerged in spring 2015 as trade unions feared that the focus on VET schools could be detrimental to grammar schools in preparing students for higher education. They also claimed that it could lead to a lower proportion of highly qualified employees, while unemployment is lowest in that category. The amount of teaching devoted to general subjects in the new vocational training schools was reduced to 600 hours. Some experts say this may make it extremely difficult for young people to change back to further education if they have opted for vocational training at the age of 14. In August, it was revealed that the core curriculum for VET schools had not yet been provided, or even developed. Calls by teaching unions to postpone the launch of the new system have been rejected by the government.

Source: Ambrus Kiss; Annamária Kunert; Károly György, Policy Agenda Tanácsadó Kft

Ireland: Disputes continue on equal pay for equal work

Teachers who entered the profession after 2010 are on different, lower, pay scales than their colleagues, even though they have the same duties and responsibilities. Two teacher unions, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) and the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), reached an agreement to partially restore the pay of teachers who were recruited to the public service after 2011. Teachers recruited after that date lost a number of allowances as part of cuts brought in during the financial crisis. According to TUI, the loss to a teacher over a 40-year career was about €300,000. The new agreement on pay restoration, along with the other increases payable under the Irish Lansdowne Road public sector pay agreement (PDF), means there will be a 15% increase in the starting salary of teachers between 31 August 2016 and 1 January 2018 (€31,009 to €35,602 per year).

Teachers who are members of ASTI are not party to the agreement as it rejected the Lansdowne Road Agreement (October 2015). In October 2016, ASTI members voted overwhelmingly for industrial action on the issue of lower pay for recently qualified teachers. ASTI has run an extensive campaign on pay inequality for new entrants to teaching.

As a result of ASTI’s rejection of the Lansdowne Road Agreement, the Department of Education and Skills refused to pay ASTI members for supervision and substitution work which was delivered unpaid for two years, on the understanding that payment in recognition of these duties would resume in September 2016. While TUI and INTO colleagues received payment in recognition for these duties, the Department of Education and Skills brought in additional measures (PDF), such as an increment freeze from 11 July 2016 to 30 June 2018 and the withdrawal of protection from compulsory redundancy. After ASTI members voted overwhelmingly, in October 2016, to withdraw from the supervision and substitution scheme, they withdrew from the scheme on 7 November and went to work as normal, only for many of them to find themselves locked out. On 8 November, ASTI was invited by the Chair of the Teachers’ Conciliation Council to enter talks to on ending the dispute. Those discussions concluded with a set of proposals entitled Outcome of Department of Education and Skills and ASTI Discussions – 29 November 2016. ASTI members will be balloted on the proposals in January 2017, with ASTI recommending that its members reject them.

Source: Roisin Farrelly, Andy Prendergast, IRN Publishing (and additional information from Catherine Cerf, Eurofound)

Italy: Trade unions disappointed over lack of government attention

Trade unions asked to be consulted before approval of Law 107/2015 (La buona scuola). The law, to be implemented by the end of 2016, is aimed at better integrating education, training and the labour market, but unions felt that their opinions were not seriously considered. However, employers supported the reform and it was published as law on 13 July 2015 after approval by the Senate.

Source: Manuelita Mancini, Fondazione Giacomo Brodolini (FGB)

Latvia: New wage model approved after long battle

Teachers’ salaries in pre-schools will increase initially to €620 per month and, after a year, to €680. Salaries of teachers in higher education institutions and colleges will also increase but over a three-year period. Teachers’ normal weekly workload is also changed. Negotiations started in spring 2014, when the special working group came together in order to produce a new model of teachers’ pay. However, the wage model was rejected by the Latvian Trade Union of Education and Science Employees (LIZDA) and was not supported by the coalition partners in the government. Negotiations resumed after the Minister of Education and Science presented a new version. After several changes in the proposed model, plus strike warnings and public protests from LIZDA, the proposal was agreed by social partners and approved in the Cabinet of Ministers on 5 July 2016, and has been valid since 1 September 2016.

Source: Kriss Karnitis, EPC Ltd

Lithuania: Weak social dialogue over amendments for teachers’ pay

Trade unions threatened to organise protest campaigns in September and October 2016 if pay negotiations stalled. At the end of August, the government promised teachers’ representatives that it would conclude a collective agreement with them in September, providing for a new payment procedure and pay increases. After approval of the amendments to the procedure of payment, salaries were raised for some teachers on 1 September 2016. On 13 September, the Tripartite Council of the Republic of Lithuania (LRTT) supported the unions’ demand to determine teachers’ pay with a specific law for this group of employees. Some results emerged from this long-lasting bargaining but dissatisfaction remains on the government’s attitude towards social dialogue. On Teachers Day, 5 October, the trade unions organised a campaign called ‘Thank you, Prime Minister...’ from all Lithuania’s teachers.

Source: Inga Blaziene, Lithuania Social Research Centre (LSRC)

Poland: Protests continue over draft legislation and workload recognition

As of 1 September, when the new school year began, the details of the reform to replace the three-tier system of compulsory education with a two-tier system were still unclear. The Polish Teachers’ Union (ZNP) began preparations for a nationwide protest in the autumn. On 10 October, ZNP held a series of rallies across the country protesting at the reform and disagreeing with the government’s indifference to criticism. According to the organisers, more than over 25,000 people took part in the rallies. As expected, NSZZ ‘Solidarność’ did not join the protest. On 18 October, ZNP decided to continue its protest in several ways, including an information campaign highlighting the negative consequences of the reform and another rally, in front of the parliament building, on the day of the first reading of the draft legislation.

Source: Dominik Owczarek, Jan Czarzasty, Foundation Institute of Public Affairs (ISP)

Poland: Statutory teaching hours and non-teaching activities remain undefined

Problems can arise when legislation is not specific enough and left to the discretion of head teachers. This was the case in Poland when the Teacher’s Charter was amended in March, and the Charter Hours, which specified two hours of additional unpaid weekly work, were removed. The Polish Teachers’ Union (ZNP) criticised this and proposed a revised draft specifying working hours for other activities framed within the 40-hour working week, besides teaching time, in order to prevent head teachers having the power to decide on the allocation of the extra hours to their staff. After a debate, the legislation prior to the introduction of Charter Hours (in 2008) was restored, stating that teachers should also perform activities and tasks arising from the statutory duties of school, including care provision and educational services suited to the needs and interests of students, leaving it unclear as to the actual amount of time those extra activities may take.

Source: Dominik Owczarek, Jan Czarzasty, Foundation Institute of Public Affairs (ISP)

Romania: New act settles controversy over alignment of salaries

Wage inequalities were addressed in Romania with an Ordinance on public employees’ wage-setting. It was debated in spring 2016 and aims to align the salaries of employees in the same positions in different institutions in the public sector. A wave of protests by education trade unions followed this, as they refused to accept the government’s offer of a wage increase of 10% (effective from 1 August 2016). Strike action followed in mid to end October 2016, with the education unions joined by unions from the healthcare sector, asking for changes in Ordinance 20/2016. Employees in these sectors asked for uniform pay and a wage rise. On 7 November, the Romanian Parliament approved a 15% wage rise for some categories of employees in the education and healthcare sectors, going against the government’s recommendations. The measures are strongly supported by trade unions from both sectors. However, the increase may turn out to be illegal, as the fiscal responsibility law (62/2010) prohibits wage and pension rises six months before the elections which, in Romania, are scheduled for 11 December 2016.

Source: Victoria Stoiciu, European Institute of Romania (EIR)

Slovakia: Agreement over future regulation of dual education

The main representatives of employer organisations met the Minister of Education, Science, Research and Sport (MSVVaS) and the Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Family (MPSVRSR) to exchange experiences of the system of dual education and to prepare ways of continuing its implementation across the country. Both government and employers expressed their confidence that the dual system of education is the way to guarantee getting a skilled workforce for the labour market and to reduce unemployment. This resulted in an agreement to promote the system and to discuss the future amendment of the act regulating dual education. The Trade Union of Workers in Education and Science (OZ) regrets that it operates only in large companies (such as the automotive industry) and not in smaller ones. Secondary, vocational, school teachers also suggest second-year pupils could enter into the process. The directors of the secondary vocational schools are very sensitive to dual education mainly because of the associated budget cuts to schools. Vocational teachers are concerned that the new system could jeopardise their posts in schools.

Source: Ludovit CziriaRastislav BednarikLenka Grandtnerova and Miroslava KordosovaIVPR

Slovakia: Graded pressure actions led to positive outcome

Education trade unions and partner organisations produced, on 17 February 2016, a declaration demanding a pay increase of 25% from 1 January 2017 and a further 10% rise in the following years. They also wanted the budget of the Ministry of Education and Interior to be increased by €400 million to improve all schools’ equipment. However, the government only approved an additional €207 million for the education sector in its budget for 2017.The civic organisation, the Initiative of the Slovak Teachers (ISU), has organised the protest activities of dissatisfied teachers. Teachers began a wave of strikes in September 2016, despite the fact that, according to the multi-employer collective agreement, teachers’ salaries increased by 4% on 1 January 2016 and, through changes to the law, their rates increased by another 6% from 1 September 2016. The first action took place on 13 September when 1,790 teachers (out of a total of 98,000) from 108 schools did not work for one lesson. According to ISU, the protest would be a graded pressure action; continuing each week on a different day, with the number of withdrawn working hours escalating to two, three or more lessons. ISU wanted salaries for teaching and expert non-teaching staff at primary and secondary schools to be increased by €140 per month in 2016, and by another €90 per month as of 2017. The graded ISU pressure action was to be continued on 19 October, but ISU announced the halting of the strike during a protest march, The March of Responsibility (in which 70 people took part) to highlight the under-financing of the education sector. ISU has commented that the graded pressure action, which started on 13 September, had met its purpose in calling attention to the issues faced by teachers.

Slovakia is also taking part in an international project on apprenticeships which is co-financed by the European Commission within the ERASMUS+ programme.

Source: Ludovit Cziria, Rastislav Bednarik, Lenka Grandtnerova and Miroslava Kordosova, IVPR

Slovenia: Pay increase to compensate for wage anomalies

The Education, Science and Culture Trade Union of Slovenia (SVIZ) and the Trade Union of Workers in the Education, Training and Research Activities of Slovenia (VIR) protested at the end of September, demanding decent pay for assistant teachers in kindergartens. Their basic monthly pay now stands at around €650. Several other trade unions supported the demonstrations, including Slovenia’s largest trade union confederation, The Association of Free Trade Unions of Slovenia (ZSSS), and approximately 2,000 assistant teachers joined the rally. The Education Minister, Maja Makovec Brenčič, responded by explaining that the valuation of the assistant teachers’ work was based on a faulty system and proposed a pay increase for two wage tariffs or €120. An agreement was reached on 27 October 2016 between the Education Minister and SVIZ in which the Minister promised to respond to the trade union’s demand for a valuation and new description of assistant teachers’ workplace, or the introduction of a new workplace.

The Minister of Public Administration stressed that the existing agreement with trade unions provides for system anomalies to be resolved for all wage groups simultaneously and promised to reach an agreement on this by the end of the year. The agreement has not yet been reached, although a draft proposal has been prepared covering 100 occupations; the Minister is awaiting the trade unions’ reaction to this. Negotiations are continuing on an agreement on labour costs and other measures for 2017. A protest was expected on 3 November 2016 by public sector employees over their low wages.

Source: Helena Kovačič, University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Social Sciences (FDV)

Slovenia: Teachers’ working hours under focus

The Slovenian Court of Audit’s review of primary teachers’ working time was published on 20 January 2016. The Court also examined the Ministry of Education’s effectiveness in managing teachers’ workloads between 2012 and 2014. The Court wanted to find out why teachers’ work obligations were poorly regulated and the reason for the variation in workloads between schools. SVIZ agrees that there is a need for uniform working time arrangements, but it disagrees with certain assumptions made by the Court on working time, claiming that this shows a misunderstanding of the basic characteristics of teachers’ work. SVIZ, which has been highlighting for some time irregularities in the organisation of working time and teachers’ workload, acknowledges the need to regulate both but wants teachers offered the flexibility to organise those activities falling outside the school programme.

In order to clarify whether teachers are fairly paid, SVIZ proposes the establishment of an independent research agency to carry out a thorough analysis of teachers’ work. The last research, in 2003, showed that teachers work more than 40 hours a week. In June 2016, a working group at the Ministry of Education was preparing a proposal on teachers’ working time arrangements. Some of the issues have been negotiated (informally) among the social partners, such as the distribution of working time, and some still remain unsolved. The group is planning negotiations on the amendments to the collective agreement during the autumn.

Source: Helena Kovačič, University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Social Sciences (FDV)

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