From 27 to 29 September 2017, more than 80 education trade union representatives from Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries convened in Riga for the ETUCE CEE Round Table. Empowering Education Trade Unions to Tackle the Social Crisis was the key theme of the conference.

Welcoming the participants to the CEE Roundtable, the ETUCE President Christine Blower reflected on the key challenges ahead for teachers and their unions in Central and Eastern European countries, who share similar geographical, political and philosophical understanding of each other.

Framing the conference theme, the European Director Susan Flocken highlighted the challenges of decreasing investment in education, denial of social dialogue and undermining of collective bargaining and, with a view to initiate the discussions, provocatively challenged the participants on education trade unions’ concrete actions for social inclusion of migrants and refugees in the education and socio-economic environment of a country, and whether education trade unions can and should do more for providing teachers and other education personnel with the competences they need to meet increasing societal demands.

Taking reference in today’s social crisis, participants touched on the challenges confronting quality education in the CEE region, such as budgetary cuts, creeping privatisation trends, the low status of the teaching profession in CEE countries, paving the way to increasing challenges in recruiting and retaining young teachers in the profession, the need to organise and the case for union renewal. They focused on universal democratic values put in jeopardy in several CEE countries, as well as on the role of education as an ultimate tool to tackle extremism and violence.

In the CEE Round Table declaration, education trade unions in CEE countries agreed to act together to:

  • Advocate for sustainable investment in education and oppose any attempt to privatisation in and of education;
  • Strengthen, uphold or restore effective social dialogue in the education sector in CEE countries;
  • Support their affiliates in the provision of democratic and citizenship education;
  • Engage in a series of concrete actions to tackle extremism and violence, as well as providing further and continuous teacher training on migrant education;
  • Actively engage in enhancing the status of the teaching profession;
  • Strengthen education trade unions through organising new members;
  • Contribute to the unity and solidarity within the European education trade union movement.

This declaration will be tabled for endorsement in the ETUCE Committee in October 2017.

The meeting of the Central and Eastern European Network (CEENET) preceded the Round Table, focusing on cooperation and solidarity actions in the region.

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