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Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa: Archive image: Horacio Villalobos/ Lusa

Teachers demands are ‘fair’ – president

Marcelo intervenes in bid to avoid “prolonged strike period”

Portugal’s president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has today waded into the ‘teachers strike’, considering they have several “understandable and fair” demands.

On the eve of the first meeting between syndicates and government leaders, the country’s head of State has called for constructive dialogue to avoid what no parent will be able to cope with – prolonged strike action, closing even more schools than already are, or have been.

Speaking to journalists at Infarmed this afternoon, Marcelo said: “Tomorrow a new round of talks begins. I consider it positive to have understood what has been resolved and what has not, but may be easy to resolve and what will be difficult to resolve. And now we’ll see how the conversations go. We have to have conversations in good faith, on both sides, they have to be constructive conversations”.

He considered “fair” the teachers’ complaints “that relate to the proximity of residence, of home in relation to the school where they will teach”, to bureaucracy and “others that have to do with aspects of the status of teachers”.

In his opinion, “there is room for dialogue”.

“The only (issue) that I see as more difficult, because it implies a lot of money, or implies a substantial change, is recognition – especially if it’s all at once, if it’s not phased in – of what the career sacrifices of teachers were really due to successive crises in the past. But that is still a matter of seeing whether there is room or no room to try to equate that. I think it is difficult, but it is possible that there is (room)”, he said.

Bearing in mind the recent chants of “goodbye João Costa” (the current education minister), Marcelo mused that this is not “a problem of ministers A, B, C, D or E” because “many of the solutions imply decisions by several ministries, namely the finance ministry”.

In other words, the ‘deadlock’ up till now has been because of “the position of the government” as a whole, not one minister.

And now this deadlock needs to be undone. “We have had two years practically lost (in education) because of the pandemic. A third year with ups and downs, back and forth, is of no interest to anyone”, the president stressed.

Marcelo added that when teachers first went on strike after Christmas, people “thought it was a kind of prolongation of the Christmas holidays and the end of the year. Now they are starting to have very serious problems; picking up children, not picking up children, students with special needs, scheduling family life, worrying about assessments (…) I think everyone stands to gain; the government stands to gain, teachers stand to gain, if dialogue goes well”.

In a few apparently off-the-cuff statements, President Marcelo has put the government in check: “teachers have a case; deal with it”.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com