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Teachers’ unions call for strike on first day of next academic year

Education sector planning on second day of protest on September 28 to denounce working conditions

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07 July 2022 11:34 AM

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ACN | Barcelona

Teachers and students’ unions called for two days of strike in September coinciding with the first day of the next academic year for secondary school, Wednesday 7, and Wednesday 28. The protests have been organized against the education policies driven by the Catalan education minister, Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray.

Unions had already announced before the 2021-22 academic year was over that they would not mind calling on for more demonstrations in September. During the first months of 2022, teachers and students organized several massive demonstrations, especially one with around 22,000 attendees in Barcelona.

The first day of the strike will coincide with the first day of the new academic year for secondary school students, but organizers have already announced some demonstrations in front of city councils across Catalonia on September 5, the first day for elementary and primary education schools.

Some other actions are already expected for the weeks starting on the 12 and the 19.

With the announcement of these new demonstrations, unions are already expecting a "combative start of the academic year, and despite it should be a normal start, it will become an ungovernable academic year," Eli Pericas, USTEC teacher’s union’s action coordinator, said in a press conference on Thursday.

Teachers and students confirmed the strikes as they claim they "will start the next academic year worse off than the current one," Bernat Pèlach, from the Intersindical union, announced. "Nothing's been fixed," he added.

The complaints also arise after the "bad organization" ahead of the new schedules in place starting in September. Students will only attend classes during the morning and start the academic course earlier.

However, unions claim some teachers will not have time to prepare the material, while some students will still not know which school they have to go to, as the final decision will not have been published yet.

The education sector, which started holidays by the end of June, hopes to reach an agreement but considers the Catalan education ministry has no willingness to negotiate.

Ministry calls for ‘responsibility’

The Catalan education ministry has requested for teachers’ unions to be "responsible" so the next academic year can start "with the maximum normality," as Patrícia Gomà, education secretary-general, said on Thursday.  

The department wants to recover pre-pandemic conditions as the last two years have been specially marked by the measures to tackle coronavirus. 

Gomà has announced that the government is open to negotiating and that their proposal to reduce an hour of class per teacher in the primary education system is still possible, and it could be in place for secondary school teachers from the next academic year.

Strikes in March

The changes announced by the government did not satisfy the education sector that already organized five days of strikes in March. At the same time, unions called for demonstrations, and the first one organized surpassed 22,000 protesters.

Despite having been peaceful demonstrations, the education ministry condemned the acts. One of these protests happened during the Education sector fair in Barcelona, at the time, several teachers and students forced Gonzàlez-Cambray from inaugurating the event because of the pressure. 

What are these protests about?

Teachers' unions are against the announced changes to the school curriculum, which include reducing hours of instruction of certain subjects, a greater focus on language learning and the development of technological skills, and modifying the grading scale, as well as starting the academic year a week earlier than usual. 

And even though Cambray has stated that schools in Catalonia will not have to implement curriculum changes next academic year if they do not want to, this has not been enough to appease unions, who call out what they describe as the government's "deceit" following an unsuccessful round of talks with authorities. 

Protesters are in favor of increased funding for public services and maintain the issue "is not about 5 vacation days" that would be lost if the academic year were to start a week earlier than usual, but rather about "10 years of budget cuts," and want to reduce the number of teaching hours per teacher to pre-2012 austerity measure levels.  

They also say the Catalan language immersion system must be protected after a years-long set of judicial procedures, on November 23, 2021, the Spanish Supreme Court ruled that all Catalan schools were obliged to introduce Spanish in 25% of lessons, thus putting an end to a four-decade-long Catalan language immersion system in schools. 

This ruling has been one of the most problematic decisions for the current Catalan government, as they had to prepare a plan to tackle the court decision. 

On May 30, the executive approved a decree in which "not applying" strictly such percentage is explicitly stated.

A few days later, on June 8, a majority of MPs in Parliament greenlighted a law that still considers Catalan the working language in classrooms while establishing Spanish as a "curricular" language, without explicitly mentioning the quotas.

But early July, the Catalan High Court (TSJC) raised doubts about the legality of the legislation approved by the Catalan government and parliament in order to counter the 25% Spanish quota imposed by the judiciary.

In a decree published on July 4, the TSJC asked all parties in the judicial procedure, including private and public prosecutors, whether the decree and law in force should be taken to the Constitutional Court.

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  • Teachers and students demonstrate for the seventh day in 2022 in Barcelona against the education ministry on May 25, 2022 (by Jordi Borràs)

  • Teachers and students demonstrate for the seventh day in 2022 in Barcelona against the education ministry on May 25, 2022 (by Jordi Borràs)

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