Recognizing the changing environment and political context in which teachers and other education personnel work, on 17 January 2019, ETUCE has kicked-off a new two-year project: “YOUR TURN! Teachers for trade union renewal”. During the project lifetime (2019 and 2020) all education trade unions across Europe are to meet and to exchange on what is needed so that all education personnel, especially those who are under-represented or most marginalized, are aware of and supported in their right to organise. Through this project, ETUCE is to look in-depth into the main patterns of employment, including the emergence of precarious work among new and young teachers, professional issues, and the way workers are empowered and represented through trade union renewal.

By looking at the root causes of the public education crisis, with this project, education trade unions embark on a journey which connects the global, regional and national challenges to the needs of the communities. Schools are the central ‘battlefields’ to regain a shrinking public space and engage new, under-represented and marginalized workers. This can only be done through a process of trade union renewal.

In doing so, ETUCE puts at the centre of its action the right of all children to quality education, the defence of trade union rights, decent working conditions and professional prerogatives of all teachers and other education personnel. The goal is simple: that fear to join a union is reduced, that stereotypes are challenged, and all workers in the sector regain ownership of all aspects of their profession and a democratic space by having their say and becoming active in trade unions, by feeling at home within their unions and by looking at the future with shared values. In that way, education workers and their trade unions can contribute to a fairer Europe.

European Director Susan Flocken pointed out that, “at the ETUCE Special Conference held on 27-28 November in Athens, ETUCE member organisations asserted the importance of trade union renewal. The major themes of that discussion were captured in the resolution, ‘Shaping the future of Europe: The role of education trade unions’. Strong trade unions depend on active and committed members. That is not new: it is part of trade union history and roots.

Unlike in the past, however, the education trade union movement acts today in a such an environment where the role of the market and private, for-profit sector in delivering education is championed, where extreme individualism and scepticism about the value of public services mine the basis of solidarity. This context means that, though it is vital, it may also be challenging to involve young and new teachers in trade union work, and to ensure that trade unions fully benefit from the diversity of their members to build strength and sustainability.

Ms Flocken went on to stress that “member organisations in Europe have varied histories and experiences that correspond to their national contexts and trade union cultures. There are no magic solutions for union renewal, but in keeping with the best traditions of trade unionism and education, this project will facilitate serious and in-depth exchanges of experience so that education trade unions can learn from each other.”