Potential reform of secondary education job transfers stirs union reaction

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In 1997, France's Minister of Education, Claude Allègre, has been seeking to decentralise the national system of transferring teachers in the secondary education sector, but this has provoked opposition from trade unions.

In the same way that France's secondary teachers are recruited nationally, their transfer between posts is also handled at national level. Every year a joint committee of government and trade union representatives - on which SNES-FSU (Syndicat national de l'enseignement secondaire - Fédération syndicale unifiée) is the largest union - considers 80,000 transfer requests. However, this is widely thought to be an inefficient procedure, as it often takes years to obtain a transfer to a particular post in a particular location.

Starting in 1997, the Minister of National Education (Education Nationale), Claude Allègre, wanted to decentralise the system by devolving responsibility for transfers to local education authorities (rectorats d'académie), of which there are 29 in the country. However, all the teachers' unions have demonstrated their hostility towards any implementation of a reform in the absence of a consultation period. A letter signed by nine unions expressing their disapproval of the move was sent to the Minister, and Mr Allègre eventually announced that the reform would not be implemented before the preparation of the 1999 school year. The apparent consensus demonstrated by the unions in their rejection of any immediate measures conceals real differences in opinion. The SNES-FSU and FO are staunchly opposed to any shift from the present transfer system, which would in their opinion lead to competition between educational establishments and to the eventual dismantling of the national education system. The positions of the other unions are more qualified - they approve the move to decentralise but want to be consulted on the terms and conditions of the reform.

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