Teachers demand 'respect'
Teachers demand 'respect'

Unions are trivialising (the right to) strike, says president of national association

Filinto Lima speaks out after months without end to teachers’ protests

Today has seen yet another ‘national strike’ and two major demonstrations (in Lisbon and Porto) by teachers’ syndicates at loggerheads with the government since almost the start of the academic year.

And while the date has a special significance (06/ 06/ ‘23 coincides exactly with teachers’ demands for six years, six months and 23 days of their careers ‘frozen’ to be restored), it has also seen a leading voice in State education say the equivalent of ‘enough is really enough’.

Filinto Lima is the president of the national association of school directors (ANDAEP). As such he understands the teachers’ struggle; he appreciates what they are battling for – but he does not agree with their methods.

This year has been particularly marked by the ‘radicalism’ of the S.T.O.P syndicate (standing for all workers in education), which is now forging ahead with further actions, affecting end of year exams and reports. In Filinto Lima’s eyes (and undoubtedly those of many parents) unions now are trivialising the right to strike, by resorting to it again and again (when it is crystal clear, these strikes are not producing the desired effect…)

“I think teachers are making strikes banal”, Lima told Correio da Manhã today. “We have strikes left and right – especially by S.T.O.P, which has been resorting to strike actions since December. This can reduce the credibility of the struggle…”

There is also a ‘clash of egos’, he suggests, between the leaders of S.T.O.P – an extremely vehement André Pestana – and FENPROF, led by syndicate veteran Mário Nogueira. “This separation of the syndicates into two factions should have happened”, Lima tells CM. “It is prejudicing the teachers’ struggle and perpetuating the strategy of outright war – with the education ministry insisting on minimum services” (which S.T.O.P rails are “illegal”).

Saturday will see another ‘mass demo’ in Peso da Régua – designed to harry Portugal Day celebrations – and, in the end, what has all this anger, banner-waving and finger pointing achieved? Certainly not any kind of education for hundreds of thousands of pupils, 240,000 of which are hoping to move from statutory education this summer to higher education – a development that will be impossible if they are not graded, or allowed to sit exams.

“In spite of all of this, teachers have agreed to give ‘pro bono’ supplementary classes to prepare pupils for exams”, Lima concedes. “They are not obliged to, but the majority of schools will be doing this”.

Nonetheless, this has been a miserable school year for everyone concerned with the nation’s schools – and syndicates have threatened ‘more of the same’ for the period 2023/ 2024.

What remains to be seen is whether the Court of Arbitration agrees with S.T.O.P (that minimum services are illegal) or the government (that they are to be observed, to the letter). If the latter, then there is a chance that final evaluations, and exams, can inch forwards.

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