André Pestana
André Pestana. Image: Paulo Novais/ Lusa

Schools face national strike, between November 13-29

André Pestana, leader of S.T.O.P. announces two-and-a-half week strike

Teachers and non-teaching staff of the country’s State schools will be on strike between November 13 and 29.

The dates were announced this morning by union leader André Pestana, of S.T.O.P. – a group that has been uncharacteristically quiet since the start of this academic year due to internal issues. Now that these have been settled, Mr Pestana is ‘back on his mission’, which is to insist that the government takes teachers’ demands to heart.

As reports this morning explained, “Pestana accuses the government of continuing to ignore” this struggle which has already seen multiple strikes and works-to-rule by teachers over the last academic year. 

What the dates actually mean, however, is unclear.

Mr Pestana’s message is that all schools can “organise themselves and decide when and if it is the best time to close the school”.

Thus the dates appear discretionary, with the final day being the day on which parliament will be taking the final vote on the 2024 State Budget, which he says “does not reflect the necessities of the Public Education System”.

A few days into the schedule – November 18 – S.T.O.P. will be staging a demonstration ‘demanding a 2024 State Budget that does value State schools’, Pestana went on.

“We want to make parents and society in general aware that if nothing is done, the next State Budget will deepen the degradation of the State system of education and the quality of teaching of our children, compromising their futures in an irreversible way”, he told reporters.

For Pestana, “this year is a crucial year, we have economic growth, (extra) tax revenue of two billion euros (…) If we don’t invest in public services this year, particularly in public schools, when will we? (…) We can’t go on with tens of thousands of students lacking teachers, psychologists, therapists, operational assistants and with education professionals disregarded, exhausted and robbed of their rights.” 

As in so many previous years, unions are seeing November as a month to show their discontent (coming as it does before the approval of the next year’s State Budget).

According to online Observador, Pestana said the decision to declare next month “a November of struggle” was made during an online meeting by more than 100 union and strike committees. 

André Pestana’s stand comes the day prime minister António Costa addressed party faithful in Lisbon, talking of the need to create a fund for budget surpluses, so that Portugal will be in a position to ‘fund investments’ post-2026.

We could spend everything now”, he said, referring to the extra money Portugal has from Brussels for ‘recovery and resilience’. “But that would be irresponsible with regard to the future, because the country will need to maintain a strong trajectory of public investment. And since we don’t know tomorrow, we need to create reserves today so that tomorrow we can continue to strengthen public investment,” he told his audience.

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