striking teachers
Today in Viana do Castelo. One leader writer has admitted he is not even sure he would want his children educated by some of today's striking teachers... Image: Rui Minderico/ Lusa

Nothing new from talks with ministry – striking teachers

Government accused of ‘tinkering round edges’ but failing on ‘essential’

Portugal’s defiant teachers’ unions emerged from the latest meeting with the government yesterday as focused on strike actions as ever.

There had been ‘some concessions’ ceded, it is true, but ‘in the essential’ (meaning the unfreezing of six years and six months in which pay and career advancement were frozen) there was nothing.

Said secretary-general of FENPROF, Mário Nogueira, “this was a meeting where practically nothing came out (…) the ministry didn’t present any document (…) In order to know if something positive came out, we need to have a document (…) There has to be a general agreement”.

But there were glimmers of light. For example, according to Lusa, teachers “left the meeting with the feeling that the new proposal for “linking seems better”, particularly because it should “cover more teachers”.

“It is also important to note that, in the case of a teacher with a contract who has not yet completed his or her first two years of work, it is possible that the new contract will be applied to all teachers who have accumulated 1,095 days of service in the last two years, regardless of whether they currently have a full or incomplete timetable.

“In mid-January, the minister of education announced this proposal but predicted that teachers with a full timetable this year would be covered. According to Mário Nogueira, the new version is “an improvement”.

He said the ministry also promised to remove the possibility of local boards of directors being able to recruit teachers for school projects – a measure also welcomed by the unions, which have always said that they only accept professional qualifications as the sole criterion for selection.

“On the other hand, Mário Nogueira stressed that the proposal that local boards of directors could place teachers within the same Teaching Zone Board, which could mean “displacements between various councils”, because there are boards that cover several zones, will “never have the support” of the unions”, writes Lusa.

There were all the other ‘grey areas’ on vacancies and quotas for access to the 5th and 7th grades; “nothing at all on the creation of a special retirement regime” or a number of other issues.

This, in the end, is the problem behind the current crisis: there is so much bad feeling towards the government, spanning so many areas in which the teaching profession has been ‘undervalued’.

The very much-more militant syndicate S.T.O.P. came out of the meeting yesterday spitting proverbial tin tacks, intent on continuing its open ended strike which has been running since the beginning of December last year.

A grim-faced secretary of State for education António Leite has suggested that the way forwards may not involve one global agreement, but lots of little ones (none of which will address the thorny issue of those six years and six months of salary/ career freezing…)

Thus, the next round of negotiations is set for next Friday (February 17), as the district strikes backed by FENPROF and various other unions continue, along with the fairly constant upheavals caused by S.T.O.P.

Schools meantime remain on ‘minimum services’, which basically means they are open; canteens are functioning, and children are able to turn up and ‘mill around’ even if classes are not on the agenda.

Today’s ‘district strike’ is in Viana do Castelo.

But it has to be acknowledged that ‘support’ for teachers is not increasing. Newspapers now are carrying various columns on how much these strikes are affecting children’s education; even questioning whether the way they are being strung out is legal.

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