On 8 May 2017, the European Sectoral Social Dialogue in Education (ESSDE) Capacity building project III was successfully kicked off with a first round table meeting in Porto, Portugal. Representatives of all three ETUCE member organisation in Portugal (FNE – project partner and main event organiser, FENPROF, SINDEP) gathered around a table with a delegation from education employer organisations composed by AEEP (Association of Private and Cooperative Education Establishments) and  ANESPO (National Association of VET Schools). The fruitful debates on the European sectoral social dialogue structure and mechanism, and the implementation and promotion of the ESSDE Work Programme on the theme of joint interest “supporting teachers, trainers and school leaders” indicated a high interest in the content and course of the event.

The aim of the round table meeting was to increase the social partners’ knowledge about the European and national sectoral and cross-sectoral social dialogue, including the EC initiative to re-launch social dialogue, and to favor the exchanges between the European and Portuguese social partners on the current social dialogue situation in Portugal. Round table participants also shared best practices and actions to improve the support to educators by means of enhancing the profile of teachers, teacher educators and school leaders through effective initial education, early career support and career-long professional learning and development. Alongside the expert presentation of the project external expert (ICF) and Portuguese training institutes, CEFOSAP and IEFP, participants benefited from the sharing of  experiences of the Finnish social partners in education (OAJ and AFIEE), who delivered a positive insight into successful social dialogue.

Participants recognised the need for stronger social dialogue to ensure the involvement of social partners in the shaping of policies that directly affect their daily work and highlighted the need for proper political commitment, institutional support and capacity at EU and national levels. To this end, João Dias da Silva insisted that "properly structured dialogue consists of forms of dialogue and consultation that function according to established rules accepted by all stakeholders, and which result in a commitment." The Portuguese education sector was greatly impacted by the economic crisis and all the sectoral social partners report a decline in resources in all sectors of education. This dire situation was reported by Anabela Sotaia, representative of FENPROF: “The austerity measures implemented in Portugal during the Troika's economic and financial assistance program entailed very significant cuts in the number of workers, public sector wages and expenditure, leading to a rapid deterioration of wages and working conditions”. ETUCE and the European Federation of Education Employers (EFEE) prepared and conducted this meeting together. Both organisations expressed great satisfaction over the quality of the debate and recognised the work of the Portuguese social partners to enhance their dialogue for the benefit of teachers, educators and the school community.

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