Teachers protesting
Teachers protesting outside parliament in Lisbon on December 17 Photo: ANTÓNIO PEDRO SANTOS/LUSA

Teachers to continue “indefinite strike” in January; major school disruptions expected

“Unprecedented” demonstration planned for January 14, 2023 in Lisbon

Portugal’s Union of All Education Professionals (STOP) has announced plans to stage an “indefinite strike” in the second term of classes and a demonstration in Lisbon on January 14.

“We shall fill Lisbon,” the union’s president, André Pestana, told journalists, recalling the December 17 demonstration in which he said 25,000 people took part. “Now we’re going to be much more. It will be something unprecedented, and, once again, in defence of public schools: for us, for our students and for the non-teaching staff, since this struggle has to be everyone’s.”

Speaking at a news conference in Coimbra, Pestana said that the “most important lesson will be written in January”, in an initiative at which public figures who support the teachers’ struggle will be invited to defend state schools.

He stressed that this is was not a matter of teachers seeking benefits for themselves, “but a fight for the country, because quality public schooling is a national goal and we are demanding justice and respect for all education professionals.”

The union demands responses to questions regarding the possibility of head teachers being able to choose teachers without taking into account their professional qualifications; the failure to count time of service during which careers have been frozen; quotas for access to the 5th and 7th levels of the profession; and reductions to pensions for those who retire after 36 years of service.

In addition, Pestana stressed, there is the issue of the precarious employment situation of contract teachers and also the need for salary increases, “since teachers have lost 20% of their purchasing power since 2009.

“This class has been robbed of its length of service, because no-one here receives compensation of half a million euros to get another job straight away,” Pestana said, in a reference to the current controversy over a secretary of state having received a golden handshake from the national airline, TAP.

“And no-one who is 21 years old manages to receive more than €4,000″ a month, he added, alluding to another recent political scandal.

Against that backdrop, the union is calling a strike “for an indefinite period” that began on December 9 and which is to continue until January 16, resuming at the start of a new school term, and with notices of strike issued for the whole month of January.

“STOP has always shown total availability to discuss the issues it has put on the table, as well as to discuss what we consider respects the majority” of its members, the union leader said.

According to Pestana, “the Ministry [of Education], in an intransigent way, has shown that, besides being very nervous, it does not really want to negotiate” and so teachers are willing to prolong industrial action and find new ways to press their case.

“We are ready to go as far as the teachers want, because here the decisions are taken by the teachers and not by the union leaders,” he stressed, explaining that “the people are fed up with agreements and memorandums that were not voted for by them.”

Pestana also said that the minister will face legal action, after calling the union president a liar on two different occasions; it was, Pestana said, a personal attack.

Source: Lusa