Strike in the schools sector

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On 27 September 2000, negotiations between the Italian government and teachers' trade unions broke down due to profound differences over the amount of resources to be allocated for teachers' pay. The Cgil, Cisl, Uil and Snals trade unions called a national strike on 9 October while the autonomous unions, Gilda and Cobas, called a national strike on 16 October.

A dispute over the implementation of the new national collective agreement for school teachers (IT9903337F), which started in 1999, continues to create conflicts among the government, school teachers and the trade unions. After the revolt in early 2000 against the "assessment procedures" for teachers proposed by the minister of education, Giovanni Berlinguer (IT0003145N), which prevented him from being reappointed minister, negotiations went on with the new minister, Tullio De Mauro.

During the second half of September 2000, Mr De Mauro proposed adding ITL 400 billion (EUR 207 million) – through the forthcoming national budget law – to the resources which had already been allocated to the schools sector, totalling ITL 1,260 billion (EUR 651 million). However, school trade unions refused this proposal.

According to the Cgil, Cisl and Uil trade union confederations and the National Autonomous Union of School Workers (Sindacato nazionale autonomo dei lavoratori della scuola, Snals), the amount of money offered by Mr De Mauro is not sufficient to guarantee an appropriate pay increase for teachers. The unions' main objective is to guarantee pay comparable to that of teachers in other EU countries. Considering, for example, that French teachers at the beginning of their careers earn EUR 800 more per month than Italian teachers and that the difference at the end of the career is even greater, the trade unions demanded – in order to continue negotiations - additional resources of at least ITL 1,000 billion (EUR 516 million).

Negotiations did not achieve a positive result and during the last meeting on 27 September 2000, Cgil, Cisl, Uil and Snals refused a government offer to increase the additional resources to ITL 650 billion (EUR 336 million). The unions then called a national strike involving school teachers at all educational levels on 9 October.

The trade unions were all united, even if at the beginning it seemed that there were divergent opinions between Cisl and Snals on one side and Cgil on the other. These divergences arose on the criteria for the distribution of pay increases among teachers. Cisl and Snals believe that the alignment of Italian school teachers' pay to EU levels is a priority, and they thus want to distribute the additional resources equally among all workers, while Cgil wants to distribute the resources according to teachers' competences. Essentially, Cisl wants to distribute 90% of the resources among all workers and the remaining 10% according to teachers' competence. Cgil, on the contrary, wants to distribute at least 50% of the additional resources to teachers' competence. A compromise was finally reached, given the perceived urgent need of aligning teachers' pay to EU levels. Future negotiations, involving the minister of education, should define how to distribute the competence-based increase.

The autonomous rank-and-file trade unions, Cobas and Gilda, which have lately seen an increase in their influence and ability to mobilise teachers, are seeking a net monthly pay increase of ITL 500 (EUR 258) and called a strike on 16 October 2000 to push this demand.

Enrico Panini, the general secretary of Cgil's teachers' federation, Cgil scuola, believes that negotiations are not completely over. According to Mr Panini it seems that the government, during the meeting held on 27 September 2000, was willing to draw up a written agreement concerning the allocation of resources, a request put forward by the trade unions. Daniela Colturani, general secretary of Cisl's teachers' federation, Cisl scuola, said that Cisl intends to use the legislative process for the approval of the budget law, which should start soon, to ask members of parliament to support trade union demands. Snals has called for the dismissal of the minister of education, Mr De Mauro, and has also asked for the President of Republic, Carlo Azelio Ciampi, to intervene in a dispute allegedly caused by the inability of the government to solve school problems.

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