Teachers buoyed by President’s support

Federation calls it “step in the right direction”

Portugal’s various teachers’ unions have begun reacting to the decision by President Marcelo yesterday to send the government’s proposed law on career progressions back where it came from.

FENPROF (the federation of teachers) was the first to applaud the president’s “valuing of the importance of teachers in society”.

Federation secretary-general Mário Nogueira will be at the education ministry this morning, he said, to propose the reopening of negotiations over the phased recuperation of all the years frozen by previous governments “in order to return peace to the country’s schools”.

FNE, the national federation of education, has stressed that goals remain “to do everything in our power to account for the six years, six months and 23 days of time frozen in teachers’ careers

“This veto (by the president) does not in itself solve this problem”, FNE secretary general Pedro Barreiros has stressed. But it is a step towards “the possibility of achieving this goal”, and his federation has what he calls “satisfaction” – albeit “true satisfaction can only come when the length of service is accounted for“.

No-one is kidding themselves that Marcelo’s veto is any kind of checkmate. Earlier this week, for example, in interview with Público, Finance Minister Fernando Medina once again came out with the line that there are no “financial conditions” in the public purse for full restitution of the years taken from teachers (in the name of austerity). But Marcelo’s reasoning – that justice is in fact on teachers’ side – and teachers’ absolute intransigence on this key point mean either something has to give, or the country’s schools will face yet another year of complicated disruption.

Says Pedro Barreiros: “Nothing changes today, but we believe it will change, whether with this government or any other, because we believe in this claim and in the justice of it.” 

It is an attitude shared by the most radical union in the last year of struggle, S.T.O.P., while political parties in opposition have all applauded the president’s decision – the majority of them defending teachers fully-deserve full restitution of the years taken from them.

Luís Montenegro, leader of the largest party in opposition, PSD, has used the moment to once again criticise the government for “incompetence” in its failure to reach a credible solution that would have satisfied the country’s head of State.

UPDATE: Since this story went up online, the Council of Ministers appears to have ‘tweaked the wording’ of its proposed law, to return the document to President Marcelo. In other words, it appears the government has no intention of reopening negotiations with teachers – which ultimately does not bode well for the coming school year.

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