Educators unions organized a massive demonstration in the Wallonian city of Namur in Belgium on Thursday, October 13, seeking better working conditions. The march was called by educators’ unions affiliated to the General Labor Federation of Belgium (FGTB/ABVV), Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (ACV/CSC), General Confederation of Liberal Trade Unions of Belgium (ACLVB/CGSLB), SECTa, and SLFP, among others. Around 13,000 people participated in the march protesting the insensitivity of the government and the Wallonia-Brussels Federation toward the pressing needs of educators. Political parties like the Workers Party of Belgium (PTB/PVDA) and the Communist Party of Belgium (PCB/CPB) expressed solidarity and support with the mobilization.
Teachers and their unions across Belgium have been demanding smaller class rooms, lighter workloads, relaxation from non-academic work, more investments, and recruitment in the sector. Teachers are also protesting against the faulty staff evaluation system proposed in the ‘Pact For Excellence in Teaching’ which tends to result in job losses and elimination of support resources. On September 27, unions organized a demonstration in front of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation in Brussels raising the same demands. With the onset of winter amid an acute fuel shortage, the teaching community as well as students are anxious about the possibility of conducting classes inside classrooms without adequate heating.
On October 10, Belgian student movement Comac demonstrated in front of the offices of Flemish Education Minister Ben Weyts in Brussels, demanding affordable meals and adequate energy supply in campuses for winter.
Educators’ unions have also given a call to mobilize for a national strike planned by trade union federations on November 9 demanding wage increases and measures to tackle the ongoing cost of living crisis.
On October 13, the Workers Party of Belgium (PTB/PVDA) stated, “Let’s put the means for good conditions for our students, teachers, educators, technical and administrative staff… And finally cap energy prices. Respect to all those who demonstrate today and every other day and commit 200% for their students.”
Regarding the mobilization on October 13, the General Union of Public Services (CGSP), which is affiliated to the FGTB, said, “We are resisting the many deviations generated by the ‘Pact for Excellence in Teaching’ which includes work overload; austerity that harms the quality of public service, working conditions, non-academic service rendered to the authorities, ineffective reforms, etc., and projects that do not add any value to the educational system.”
The Communist Party of Belgium (PCB/CPB) has also criticized “the Pact For Excellence in Teaching which has been discussed for the past 10 years and aims to permanently install private management in education with pilot plans that will increase the workload and exploitation of teachers and divert them from their educational missions. The evaluation of teachers, planned in the pact, is a real attack against the teacher and it subjects them to the will of the bosses and the needs of the market with the threat of dismissal at the end of two negative assessments.”
On October 10, Comac stated, “More expensive student restaurants, higher fees, halls where the heating goes off… Meanwhile, energy companies are making billions of stimulus profits.”
The youth organization added, “Inequality in education is increasing. Maybe we need to be rich to be able to study? Higher education needs to come up with collective solutions, instead of leaving us in the cold. The campuses must remain at 20°C and must not close. Prices have to go down and energy companies like Engie have to pay!”